Oligodendrocyte development is controlled by a number of survival and migratory factors. The present study shows that signaling of CXCR4 receptor by the chemokine CXCL12 regulates survival and migration of neural precursors (NP) as well as oligodendrocyte progenitors (OP). CXCR4 is expressed by E14 striatal NP and OP generated by neurospheres. In CXCR4-defective mice, the number of NP in neurosphere outgrowth was twofold less than in wild-type (WT) mice; NP radial cell migration was also decreased. In contrast, the addition of CXCL12 to WT NP increased radial migration from the sphere in a dose-dependent manner with a maximal response at 200 nM. When oligodendrocytes differentiated in neurosphere outgrowth, CXCR4 was downregulated. OP isolated from newborn brain coexpressed CXCR4 with platelet-derived growth factor receptor-alpha (PDGFR alpha) or chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan; receptor expression also decreased during differentiation in vitro. Neonatal OP showed a peak migratory response to 20 nM of CXCL12 in chemotactic chambers, a migration inhibited by a CXCR4 antagonist and anti-CXCL12 antibody. In the embryonic spinal cord, the number of OP-expressing PDGFR alpha was reduced more than twofold in CXCR4-defective mice compared with WT and the ratio of ventral to dorsal OP was significantly increased. This indicates a defect in OP survival and their dorsal migration from the ventral cord region, probably because CXCR4(-/-) OP are unable to respond to CXCL12 made by vascular endothelia and the pia mater. We propose that CXCR4 signaling regulate survival and outward chemotactic migration of OP during embryonic and postnatal CNS development.