Recent work has shown that segmentation underlies the patterning of the vertebrate hindbrain and its neural crest derivatives. Several genes have been identified with segment-restricted expression, and evidence is now emerging regarding their function and regulatory relationships. The expression patterns of Hox genes and the phenotype of null mutants indicate roles in specifying segment identity. A zinc finger gene Krox-20 is a segment-specific regulator of Hox expression, and it seems probable that retinoic acid receptors also regulate Hox genes in the hindbrain. The receptor tyrosine kinase gene Sek may mediate cell-cell interactions that lead to segmentation. These studies provide a starting point for understanding the molecular basis of segmental patterning in the hindbrain.