Medulloblatoma is a pediatric brain tumor originating in the human cerebellum. A collection of 23 medulloblastomas was analyzed for expression of the developmental control genes of the PAX and EN gene families by RNase protection and in situ hybridization. Of all nine PAX genes investigated, only PAX5 and PAX6 were consistently expressed in most medulloblastomas (70 and 78% of all cases, respectively), as were the genes EN1 (57%) and EN2 (78%). EN1, EN2, and PAX6 genes were also expressed in normal cerebellar tissue, and their expression in medulloblastoma is consistent with the hypothesis that this tumor originates in the external granular layer of the developing cerebellum. PAX5 transcripts were, however, not detected in the neonatal cerebellum, indicating that this gene is deregulated in medulloblastoma. In the desmoplastic variant of medulloblastoma, PAX5 expression was restricted to the reticulin-producing proliferating tumor areas containing undifferentiated cells; PAX5 was not expressed in the reticulin-free nonproliferating islands undergoing neuronal differentiation. These data suggest that deregulated expression of PAX5 correlates positively with cell proliferation and inversely with neuronal differentiation in desmoplastic medulloblastoma.