Neural crest (NC) cells migrate exclusively into the rostral half of each sclerotome, where they avoid the dermomyotome and the paranotochordal sclerotome. F-spondin is expressed in these inhibitory regions and throughout the caudal halves. In vitro bioassays of NC spreading on substrates of rostral or caudal epithelial-half somites (RS or CS, respectively) revealed that NC cells adopt on RS a fibroblastic morphology, whereas on CS they fail to flatten. F-spondin inhibited flattening of NC cells on RS. Conversely, F-spondin antibodies prevented rounding up of NC cells on CS. Addition of F-spondin to trunk explants inhibited NC migration into the sclerotome, and treatment of embryos with anti-F-spondin antibodies yielded migration into otherwise inhibitory sites. Thus, somite-derived F-spondin is an inhibitory signal involved in patterning the segmental migration of NC cells and their topographical segregation within the RS.