The secreted ligand Reelin is thought to regulate the translocation and positioning of prospective layer 6 (L6) neurons into the preplate, a plexus of neurons overlying the ventricular zone. We examined wild type and Reelin-deficient cortices and found that L6 neurons were equivalently positioned beneath the pia during the period of preplate splitting and initial cortical plate (CP) formation. The absence of detectable L6 ectopia in "reeler" cortices at this developmental time point indicates that Reelin-signaling might not regulate L6 neuron migration or gross positioning during preplate splitting. To explore the acute response of L6 neurons to Reelin, subpial injections of Reelin were made into Reelin-deficient explants. Reelin injection caused L6 neurons to orient their nuclei and polarize their Golgi toward the pia while initiating exuberant dendritic (MAP2+) outgrowth within 4 h. This rapid Reelin-dependent neuronal orientation and alignment created CP-like histology without any significant change in the mean position of the population of L6 neurons. Conversely, subplate cells and chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan immunoreactivity were found at significantly deeper positions from the pial surface after injection, suggesting that Reelin partially rescues preplate splitting within 4 h. Thus, Reelin has a direct role in promoting rapid morphological differentation and orientation of L6 neurons during preplate splitting.