Phenotypic characteristics of cells in the developing human telencephalic wall were analyzed using electron microscopy and immunocytochemistry with various glial and neuronal cell markers. The results suggest that multiple defined cell types emerge in the neocortical proliferative zones and are differentially regulated during embryonic development. At 5-6 weeks gestation, three major cell types are observed. Most proliferating ventricular zone (VZ) cells are labeled with radial glial (RG) markers such as vimentin, glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), and glutamate astrocyte-specific transporter (GLAST) antibodies. A subpopulation of these RG cells also express the neuronal markers beta III-tubulin, MAP-2, and phosphorylated neurofilament SMI-31, in addition to the stem cell marker nestin, indicating their multipotential capacity. In addition, the presence of VZ cells that immunoreact only with neuronal markers indicates the emergence of restricted neuronal progenitors. The number of multipotential progenitors in the VZ gradually decreases, whereas the number of more restricted progenitors increases systematically during the 3-month course of human corticogenesis. These results suggest that multipotential progenitors coexist with restricted neuronal progenitors and RG cells during initial corticogenesis in the human telencephalon. Since the multipotential VZ cells disappear during the major wave of neocortical neurogenesis, the RG and restricted neuronal progenitors appear to serve as the main sources of cortical neurons. Thus, the diversification of cells in human VZ and overlying subventricular zone (SVZ) begins earlier and is more pronounced than in rodents.