Initial experiments to evaluate the in vivo fate(s) of constitutively proliferating subependymal cells determined that, following in vivo labeling of this population by infection with a retrovirus containing a beta-galactosidase reporter gene, there was a progressive and eventually complete loss of histochemically beta-galactosidase-positive cells within the lateral ventricle subependyma with increasing survival times of up to 28 days after retroviral infection. Subsequent experiments were designed to ascertain the potential contributions of: (i) the migration of subependymal cells away from the forebrain lateral ventricles; and (ii) the down-regulation of the retroviral reporter gene expression. Retroviral lineage tracing experiments demonstrate that a major in vivo fate for constitutively proliferating subependymal cells is their rostral migration away from the walls of the lateral ventricle to the olfactory bulb. Although down-regulation of retroviral reporter gene expression does not contribute to the loss of detection of beta-galactosidase-labeled cells from the lateral ventricle subependyma, it does result in an underestimation of the absolute number of retrovirally labeled cells in the olfactory bulb at longer survival times. Furthermore, a temporal decrease in the double labeling of beta-galactosidase-labeled cells with [3H]thymidine was observed, indicating that only a subpopulation of the migratory subependymal-derived cells continue to actively proliferate en route to the olfactory bulb. These two events may contribute to the lack of a significant increase in the total number of retrovirally labeled subependymal cells during rostral migration. Evidence from separately published studies suggests that cell death is also an important regulator of the size of the constitutively proliferating subependymal population. In summary, in vivo studies utilizing retroviral reporter gene labeling demonstrate that constitutively proliferating subependymal cells born in the lateral ventricle migrate rostrally to the olfactory bulb. Loss of proliferation potential and retroviral reporter gene down-regulation contribute to the lack of any significant increase in the total number of labeled cells recovered in the olfactory bulb.