The first long tract to form in the brain of a vertebrate embryo is the ventral longitudinal pathway. In order to investigate what chemical cues may guide nerve growth cones along this pathway, affinity-purified antibodies to laminin and collagen type IV were used to stain sections of mouse embryos from Embryonic Days 8 through 17. A monoclonal anti-neurofilament antibody was used to show the development of the ventral longitudinal pathway in relationship to immunoreactivity for laminin and collagen type IV. At Day 8 fluorescent immunoreactivity for laminin is bright in the external limiting membrane of the neural tube, but the neuroepithelium does not show bright laminin or neurofilament immunoreactivity. At E9 the ventral longitudinal pathway is forming and punctate immunoreactivity for laminin is present on the surfaces of neuroepithelial cells in the marginal zone, through which axons of the ventral pathway extend. Punctate immunofluorescence for laminin remains concentrated in the marginal zone on Days E10 through E14, but on E16 punctate immunofluorescence was much reduced, although immunoreactivity for laminin remained bright in the maturing pial and arachnoid membranes and on blood vessels in the brain. Immunoreactivity for collagen type IV was strong in the external limiting membrane and on blood vessels, but never showed concentrated punctate immunofluorescence in the marginal zone. These results indicate that laminin may be available on cell surfaces and in extracellular spaces as an adhesive ligand for growth cones during the formation of the ventral longitudinal pathway.