To elucidate the biological significance of fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF-2) expression in epilepsy-associated malformations of cortical development, immunohistochemical expression of FGF-2 was investigated in the developing human cerebral mantles obtained from 30 autopsy cases of fetuses, stillborn infants and children ranging from 12 weeks gestation to 15 years old, and 70 surgically-resected corticectomy specimens from patients with medically intractable epilepsy, including: group I, 12 tubers of tuberous sclerosis; group II, 24 cases of focal cortical dysplasia (FCD) with balloon cells (BC); group III, 11 FCD without BC; group IV, 23 histologically normal-appearing neocortices from patients with Rasmussen encephalitis, cystic-gliotic encephalopathy, temporal lobe epilepsy; and group V, 14 normal-appearing neocortices adjacent to dysplastic lesions from groups I and II. FGF-2 expression was detected in a population of matrix cells and/or neuroblasts within the ventricular zone in fetuses younger than 19 weeks gestation. Nuclei of glioblasts and immature astrocytes were also positive for FGF-2 in cases older than 18 weeks gestation. FGF-2 expression was not detected in immature cortical plate neurons. Astrocytes and ependymal cells were positive for FGF-2 in the postnatal brains. Choroid plexus epithelium was strongly positive for FGF-2 in all cases examined. Among the corticectomy specimens, the cytoplasms and/or nuclei of dysmorphic neurons (DNs) and BCs in groups I and II were variably positive for FGF-2. The proportions of FGF-2 immunoreactive cells (FGF-2-IR%) was significantly higher in groups I (36.9 ± 9.6) and II (45.1 ± 7.0) than in groups III (21.0 ± 5.7), IV (14.4 ± 4.7) and V (24.3 ± 10.3), and that in group V was higher than in group IV (P < 0.01). These results indicate that FGF-2 upregulation in DNs and BCs is an important feature common to groups I and II, and suggest that BCs and DNs in these groups represent disturbed gliogenesis from matrix cells and disturbed maturation of cortical neurons from migrating neuroblasts, respectively.