Microtubule-associated protein 2 (MAP2), a protein linked to the neuronal cytoskeleton in the mature central nervous system (CNS), has recently been identified in glial precursors indicating a potential role during glial development. In the present study, we systematically analyzed the expression of MAP2 in a series of 237 human neuroepithelial tumors including paraffin-embedded specimens and tumor tissue microarrays from oligodendrogliomas, mixed gliomas, astrocytomas, glioblastomas, ependymomas, as well as dysembryoplastic neuroepithelial tumors (DNT), and central neurocytomas. In addition, MAP2-immunoreactive precursor cells were studied in the developing human brain. Three monoclonal antibodies generated against MAP2A-B or MAP2A-D isoforms were used. Variable immunoreactivity for MAP2 could be observed in all gliomas with the exception of ependymomas. Oligodendrogliomas exhibited a consistently strong and distinct pattern of expression characterized by perinuclear cytoplasmic staining without significant process labeling. Tumor cells with immunoreactive bi- or multi-polar processes were mostly encountered in astroglial neoplasms, whereas the small cell component in neurocytomas and DNT was not labeled. These features render MAP2 immunoreactivity a helpful diagnostic tool for the distinction of oligodendrogliomas and other neuroepithelial neoplasms. RT-PCR, Western blot analysis, and in situ hybridization confirmed the expression of MAP2A-C (including the novel MAP2+ 13 transcript) in both oligodendrogliomas and astrocytomas. Double fluorescent laser scanning microscopy showed that GFAP and MAP2 labeled different tumor cell populations. In embryonic human brains, MAP2-immunoreactive glial precursor cells were identified within the subventricular or intermediate zones. These precursors exhibit morphology closely resembling the immunolabeled neoplastic cells observed in glial tumors. Our findings demonstrate MAP2 expression in astrocytic and oligodendroglial neoplasms. The distinct pattern of immunoreactivity in oligodendrogliomas may be useful as a diagnostic tool. Since MAP2 expression occurs transiently in migrating immature glial cells, our findings are in line with an assumed origin of diffuse gliomas from glial precursors.