Background: In situ hybridization (ISH) is a powerful method for visualizing gene expression patterns at the organismal level with cellular resolution. When automated, it is capable of determining the expression of a large number of genes. Results: The expression patterns of 662 genes that encode enzymes were determined by ISH in the mid-gestation mouse embryo, a stage that models the complexity of the adult organism. Forty-five percent of transcripts encoding metabolic enzymes (n = 297) showed a regional expression pattern. A similar percentage was found for the 190 kinases that were also analyzed. Many mRNAs encoding glycolytic and TCA cycle enzymes exhibited a characteristic expression pattern. The annotated expression patterns were deposited on the Genepaint database and are retrievable by user-defined queries including gene name and sites of expression. Conclusion: The 662 expression patterns discussed here comprised gene products with activities associated with catalysis. Preliminary analysis of these data revealed that a significant number of genes encoding housekeeping functions such as biosynthesis and catabolism were expressed regionally, so they could be used as tissue-specific gene markers. We found no difference in tissue specificity between mRNAs encoding housekeeping functions and those encoding components of signal transduction pathways, as exemplified by the kinases. © 2007 Cankaya et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.