After neural processes emerge from the neural tube in the chick embryo, their growth is restricted to the cranial halves of the neighbouring somites. In this study we have developed an in vitro system to model the interactions between these tissue types. Pioneer neurites display a hierarchy of preferences in terms of the substrates they can grow on. As expected, tissue culture plastic does not support neural outgrowth, but this can be overcome by coating the plastic substrate with either collagen or poly-L-lysine. Neural crest, cranial half somite, and a number of other tissues support growth well, while caudal half somite and tail bud mesenchyme do so to a much smaller extent. The binding pattern of a variety of lectins was assessed in cryostat sections of embryos and in cultured cells of the above tissues. It was found that peanut agglutinin can discriminate between cranial and caudal sclerotome both in vitro and in the embryo, since it binds preferentially to caudal sclerotome in both cases. This difference is expressed as soon as the sclerotome forms. The significance of these findings is twofold: first, they show that the interactions that take place during peripheral neural segmentation can be modelled in vitro; second, they represent the first instance of a molecular difference between the cranial and caudal halves of the sclerotome, detectable both in culture and in the embryo.