In this study we report on the developmental and regional expression of two brain-specific isoforms of tropomyosin, TMBr-1 and TMBr-3, that are generated from the rat alpha-tropomyosin gene via the use of alternative promoters and alternative RNA splicing. Western blot analysis using an exon-specific peptide polyclonal antibody revealed that the two isoforms are differentially expressed in development with TMBr-3 appearing in the embryonic brain at 16 days of gestation, followed by the expression of TMBr-1 at 20 days after birth. TMBr-3 was detected in all brain regions examined, whereas TMBr-1 was detected predominantly in brain areas that derive from the prosencephalon. Immunocytochemical studies on mixed primary cultures made from rat embryonic midbrain indicate that expression of the brain-specific epitope is restricted to neurons. The developmental pattern and neuronal localization of these forms of tropomyosin suggest that these isoforms have a specialized role in the development and plasticity of the nervous system.