Astrocytes, ependymal cells, and oligodendrocytes have been shown to develop on the same schedule in dissociated cell cultures of early embryonic rat brain as in vivo. Subsequent studies showed that there are two major types of astrocyte (type-1 and type-2), which, in cultures of perinatal optic nerve, develop as two distinct lineages. In such cultures, type-2 astrocytes and oligodendrocytes develop from the same, bipotential, (O-2A) progenitor cells, which differentiate into type-2 astrocytes in 10% fetal calf serum (FCS) and into oligodendrocytes in less than or equal to 0.5% FCS. In light of these findings, we now have extended our studies on macroglial cell development in rat brain and show the following: (i) The first astrocytes to develop have a type-1 phenotype, while astrocytes with a type-2 phenotype do not develop until almost 2 weeks later, just as in the optic nerve. (ii) Most importantly, type-2 astrocytes, like the other macroglial cells, develop on the same schedule in cultures of early embryonic (less than or equal to E15) brain as they do in vivo. (iii) By contrast, both oligodendrocytes and type-2 astrocytes develop prematurely in cultures of E17 brain, and FCS influences this development in the same way it does in perinatal optic nerve cultures. (iv) Type-2 astrocyte precursors are labeled by the A2B5 monoclonal antibody, as shown previously for oligodendrocyte precursors in brain and for O-2A progenitor cells in optic nerve. Taken together with our previous findings, these results suggest that oligodendrocytes and type-2 astrocytes in brain develop from bipotential O-2A progenitor cells, whose choice of developmental pathway and timing of differentiation depend on mechanisms that operate independently of brain morphogenesis.