Patterns of dendritic development in the neocortex of normal and reeler E15-17 mouse embryos are studied in Golgi impregnations. Interactions between dendrites and axon-rich strata appear to be critical determinants of dendritic morphology in both genotypes. Firstly, axon-dendrite proximity appears to stimulate dendritic sprouting, elongation and branching. Secondly, the position of the axon-rich strata with respect to the differentiating cell appears to determine the direction of dendritic growth and thereby the ultimate configuration of the dendritic arbor. With regard to specific cell configurations, a multipolar form is generated when the cell is embedded in an axon-rich zone. A monopolar or bipolar configuration is achieved when the cell lies in the axon-poor cortical plate and addresses and axon-rich stratum with one or both radially extended migratory processes. Such variations in the configuration of neurons with polar dendritic systems may be observed uniquely in the mutant cortex because axon-rich zones are stratified anomalously at multiple levels in the cortical plate. As a consequence, polar dendritic systems develop from either the superior, the inferior or both somatic poles of postmigratory cells. Pyramidal cells may, therefore, develop a normal upright or an abnormal "upside-down" disposition. Regardless of the orientation of the polar dendritic system, the axon emerges from the inferior aspect of the cell suggesting that there has been no rotation of the original migratory axis of the cell.