Cells in the median hinge point (MHP) of the bending chick neural plate are tightly apposed to the underlying notochord. These cells differ from those in adjacent lateral neuroepithelial areas (L) in that MHP cells are short and mainly wedge-shaped and line a furrow, whereas L cells are tall and mainly spindle-shaped and do not line a furrow. Cell generation time also differs in these regions. These consistent differences are detectable only after the notochord has formed and established contact with the neural plate; it is unclear whether they result from self-differentiation or induction. Two experiments were performed to evaluate the hypothesis that MHP characteristics develop owing to inductive interactions between the notochord and overlying neuroepithelial cells. First, notochordless chick embryos were generated to determine whether midline neuroepithelial cells still developed typical MHP characteristics. In the absence of the notochord, such characteristics did not develop. Second, isolated segments of quail notochord were transplanted subjacent to L of chick hosts to ascertain whether the notochord is capable of inducing MHP characteristics in L cells. When transplanted notochordal segments established apposition with host L cells, the apposing L cells usually developed typical MHP characteristics. Collectively, these results provide strong evidence that the notochord plays an inductive role in the formation of MHP characteristics. This investigation further revealed that bending can occur in the absence of MHP characteristics, forming a neural tube with an abnormal morphology. Thus, the formation of such characteristics, particularly cell wedging, is not required for bending but plays a major role in generating the normal cross-sectional morphology of the neural tube.