The induction of morphologically observable neural structures occurs as the result of tissue interactions between chordamesoderm and overlying ectoderm beginning at gastrulation. Since the future dorsal, and hence neural, side of the embryo is determined around the time of fertilization, we questioned whether the presumptive neural epithelium might have received some developmental instructions prior to contact with the migrating chordamesoderm. Epi 1, a cell surface antigen present only on epidermal epithelium was used as a marker to determine when epithelial cells have been programmed to express (or not express) this epidermal-specific molecule. We find that ligated animal halves of precleavage embryos already contain all the information necessary for expression of Epi 1 at the appropriate developmental time (early neurula). By at least the eight-celled stage, the epithelial cells derived from ventral animal blastomeres are much better at expressing the Epi 1 antigen than their dorsal counterparts. We suggest that the mechanisms responsible for expression of the Epi 1 antigen are localized within the animal hemisphere prior to the onset of cleavage. By the third cleavage division, dorsal animal cells appear to have received information which inhibits the subsequent expression of this epidermal antigen.