A family of glycoconjugates has recently been shown to share a common carbohydrate epitope recognized by the mouse monoclonal antibody HNK-1. The specificity of HNK-1 was found to be similar to that of another monoclonal antibody, NC-1. These two IgM monoclonal antibodies were raised after immunization of mice with a human T-cell line and avian neural crest-derived ganglia, respectively. The antigens recognized by these antibodies include the myelin-associated glycoprotein, MAG, a glycolipid of defined structure, and a set of molecules involved in cell adhesion. The timing and pattern of appearance of these antigens are distinct. Moreover, the epitope may be absent on an antigen at a given stage or in a given tissue. Therefore, although the molecules able to carry the NC-1/HNK-1 epitope are numerous and expressed in various tissues, the use of the monoclonal antibodies on tissue sections has proven adequate for following the migration of avian neural crest cells, the major cell lineage recognized by NC-1 and HNK-1 during early embryogenesis. Analogies in several other species have been found on the basis of HNK-1 reactivity. In this study we show that NC-1 and HNK-1 can be used successfully to label migrating neural crest cells in dog, pig and human. On the other hand, the NC-1/HNK-1 epitope was not present on migrating crest cells in amphibians or mice and was found only transiently on the neural crest of rats.