How the considerable diversity of neural crest (NC)-derived cell types arises in the vertebrate embryo has long been a key question in developmental biology. The pluripotency and plasticity of differentiation of the NC cell population has been fully documented and it is well-established that environmental cues play an important role in patterning the NC derivatives throughout the body. Over the past decade, in vivo and in vitro cellular approaches have unravelled the differentiation potentialities of single NC cells and led to the discovery of NC stem cells. Although it is clear that the final fate of individual cells is in agreement with their final position within the embryo, it has to be stressed that the NC cells that reach target sites are pluripotent and further restrictions occur only late in development. It is therefore a heterogenous collection of cells that is submitted to local environmental signals in the various NC-derived structures. Several factors were thus identified which favor the development of subsets of NC-derived cells in vitro. Moreover, the strategy of gene targeting in mouse has led at identifying new molecules able to control one or several aspects of NC cell differentiation in vivo. Endothelin peptides (and endothelin receptors) are among those. The conjunction of recent data obtained in mouse and avian embryos and reviewed here contributes to a better understanding of the action of the endothelin signaling pathway in the emergence and stability of NC-derived cell phenotypes.