Multipotent and self-renewing neural stem cells have been isolated in culture, but equivalent cells have not yet been prospectively identified in neural tissue. Using cell surface markers and flow cytometry, we have isolated neural crest stem cells (NCSCs) from mammalian fetal peripheral nerve. These cells are phenotypically and functionally indistinguishable from NCSCs previously isolated by culturing embryonic neural tube explants. Moreover, in vivo BrdU labeling indicates that these stem cells self-renew in vivo. NCSCs freshly isolated from nerve tissue can be directly transplanted in vivo, where they generate both neurons and glia. These data indicate that neural stem cells persist in peripheral nerve into late gestation by undergoing self-renewal. Such persistence may explain the origins of some PNS tumors in humans.