In the mature central nervous system (CNS) regulated secretion of ATP from astrocytes is thought to play a significant role in cell signaling. Whether such a mechanism is also operative in the developing nervous system and, if so, during which stage of development, has not been investigated. We have tackled this question using cells derived from reconstituted neurospheres, as well as brain explants of embryonic mice. Here, we show that in both models of neural cell development, astrocyte progenitors are competent for the regulated secretion of ATP-containing vesicles. We further document that this secretion is dependent on cytosolic Ca(2+) and the v-SNARE system, and takes place by exocytosis. Interference with ATP secretion alters spontaneous Ca(2+) oscillations and migration of neural progenitors. These data indicate that astrocyte progenitors acquire early in development the competence for regulated secretion of ATP, and that this event is implicated in the regulation of at least two cell functions, which are critical for the proper morphogenesis and functional maturation of the CNS.