In light of a previous report suggesting that the brains of tenascin- deficient animals are grossly normal, we have studied the somatosensory cortical barrel field and injured cerebral cortex in postnatal homozygous tenascin knockout, heterozygote, and normal wild-type mice. Nissl staining, cytochrome oxidase, and Dil axonal tracing of thalamocortical axonal projections to the somatosensory cortex, all reveal the formation of normal barrels in the first postnatal week in homozygous knockout mice that cannot be distinguished from heterozygote or normal wild-type barrels. In addition to confirming the absence of tenascin in knockout animals, and reporting apparently reduced levels of the glycoprotein in barrel boundaries of heterozygote animals using well-characterized antibodies and immunocytochemistry, we also studied the DSD-1-PG proteoglycan, another developmentally regulated molecule known to be associated with transient glial/glycoconjugate boundaries that surround developing barrels; DSD-1-PG was also found to be expressed in barrel boundaries in apparently normal time frames in tenascin knockout mice. Peanut agglutinin (PNA) binding of galactosyl- containing glycoconjugates also revealed barrel boundaries in all three genotypes. We also examined the expression of tenascin-R, a paralog of tenascin-C (referred to here simply as tenascin). As previously reported, tenascin-R is prominently expressed in subcortical white matter, and we found it was not expressed in the barrel boundaries in any of the genotypes. Thus, the absence of tenascin does not result in a compensatory expression of tenascin-R in the barrel boundaries. Finally, we studied wounds of the cerebral cortex in the late postnatal mouse. The astroglial scar formed, for the most part, in the same time course and spatial distribution in the wild-type and tenascin knockout mice. However, there may be some differences in the extent of gliosis between the knockout and the wild type that warrant further study. Roles for boundary molecules like tenascin during brain pattern formation and injury are reconsidered in light of these findings on barrel development and cortical lesions in tenascin-deficient mice.