The beta-amyloid precursor protein (APP) is expressed within the nervous system, even at the earliest stages of embryonic development when cell growth and proliferation is particularly important. In order to study the function of APP at these early developmental stages, we have studied the development of the cerebral cortex in both wild type and App-/- mutant mice. Here, we demonstrate that APP mRNA is expressed in cortical precursor cells and that APP protein is concentrated within their apical domains during interphase. However, during mitosis, APP re-localizes to the peripheral space surrounding the metaphase plate. In APP-deficient cortical precursors, the duration of mitosis is increased and a higher proportion of cortical precursor cells contained nuclei in late G2. We conclude that during cortical development APP plays a role in controlling cell cycle progression, particularly affecting G2 and mitosis. These observations may have important implications for our understanding of how APP influences the progression of Alzheimer's disease, since degenerating cortical neurons have been shown to up-regulate cell cycle markers and re-enter the mitotic cycle before dying.