The timing of the final mitotic division of basal forebrain cholinergic neurons was studied by injecting [3H]thymidine into timed pregnant rats and processing the brains of their progeny as young adults for immunohistochemistry with a monoclonal antibody to choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) followed by autoradiography. ChAT-positive neurons located caudally in the basal forebrain were found to become postmitotic mostly on embryonic (E) days 12 and 13, whereas the peak final mitosis of more rostrally located ChAT-positive neurons occurred increasingly later, with the most rostral ChAT-immunoreactive neurons leaving their final mitotic cycles on E15 and E16. In all basal forebrain regions, cholinergic neurogenesis was complete by E17. These results indicate that the cholinergic neurons in the basal forebrain become postmitotic in a caudal-to-rostral gradient over about 5 days. The continuity of the gradient suggests that these cholinergic neurons may derive from the same germinal source.