A wide variety of neurons and glial cells differentiate from common precursor cells in the developing nervous system. During this process, Notch-mediated cell-cell interaction is essential for maintenance of dividing cells and subsequent generation of cell type diversity. Activation of Notch inhibits cellular differentiation, and abnormality of the Notch pathway leads to premature neuronal differentiation, the lack of some cell types, and severe defects of tissue morphogenesis. Recent data demonstrate that Notch fails to inhibit cellular differentiation in the absence of the bHLH genes Hes1 and Hes5, which functionally antagonize the neuronal bHLH genes such as Mash1. These results indicate that the two Hes genes are essential effectors for the Notch pathway and that neuronal differentiation is controlled by the pathway "Notch-Hes1/Hes5-|Mash1".