To access and compare gene expression in fetal neuroepithelial cells (NEPs) and progenitor cells, we have used microarrays containing approximately 500 known genes related to cell cycle regulation, apoptosis, growth and differentiation. We have identified 152 genes that are expressed in NEPs and 209 genes expressed by progenitor cells. The majority of genes (141) detected in NEPs are also present in progenitor populations. There are 68 genes specifically expressed in progenitors with little or no expression in NEPs, and a few genes that appear to be present exclusively in NEPs. Using cell sorting, RT-PCR, in situ hybridization or immunocytochemistry, we have examined the segregation of expression to neuronal and glial progenitors, and identified several that appeared to be enriched in neuronal (e.g. CDK5, neuropilin, EphrinB2, FGF11) or glial (e.g. CXCR4, RhoC, CD44, tenascin C) precursors. Our data provide a first report of gene expression profiles of neural stem and progenitor cells at early stages of development, and provide evidence for the potential roles of specific cell cycle regulators, chemokines, cytokines and extracellular matrix molecules in neural development and lineage segregation.