We report here the development and rescue of the truncated hindbrain of retinoid-deprived quail embryos. The embryo is completely rescued by an injection of retinol into the egg; this confirms retinol, or a related retinoid, as a required molecule in hindbrain development. Staging the retinoid replacement enabled us to determine that the 3-4 somite stage is the period when retinoids are required for normal development. Analysis of the development of the retinoid-deprived hindbrain phenotype through somitogenesis has revealed a pathway of retinoid action in early hindbrain regionalization. The hindbrain of the retinoid-deprived embryo is normal in size, during early somitogenesis, but has a respecified pattern of Krox-20 expression. From the earliest expression of Krox-20, at the 5 somite stage, the rhombomere 3 stripe fills the caudal third of the developing hindbrain to the level of the first somite. Morphologically only 2, instead of the normal 5, rhombomere bulges form. These 2 bulges express genes and, later, develop morphology characteristic of rhombomeres 1 and 2 and rhombomere 3. Posterior hindbrain specific genes, Hoxb-1, Fgf3, MafB, and the rhombomere 5 stripe of Krox-20 are never expressed in the head neuroepithelium of these embryos. From the initial formation of the neural plate, there is no evidence of rhombomere 4-7 specific characteristics. These results indicate the specification of the posterior hindbrain is lost and its cells participate in the formation of an enlarged anterior hindbrain. In our previous study, we reported the absence of the posterior hindbrain in retinoid-deprived quails (Maden, M., Gale, E., Kostetskii, I., Zile, M., 1996. Vitamin A-deficient quail embryos have half a hindbrain and other neural defects. Curr. Biol. 6, 417-426). Here, we show this phenotype to be the result of respecification of the hindbrain cells. This provides evidence for a region specific response to a single stimulus, retinol, which suggests a pre-rhombomeric regionalization of the hindbrain.