Abstract In the mouse mammary gland, homeobox gene expression patterns suggest roles in development and neoplasia. In the human breast, we now identify a family of Iroquois-class (IRX) homeobox genes. One gene, IRX-2, is expressed in discrete epithelial cell lineages being found in ductal and lobular epithelium, but not in myoepithelium. Expression is absent from associated mesenchymal adipose stroma. During gland development, expression is concentrated in terminal end buds and terminal lobules and is reduced in a subset of epithelial cells during lactation. In contrast to observations for many homeobox genes in the mouse mammary gland in which homeobox gene expression is lost on neoplastic progression, IRX-2 expression is maintained in human mammary neoplasias. Data suggest IRX-2 functions in epithelial cell differentiation and demonstrate regulated expression during ductal and lobular proliferation as well as lactation.