To determine the role of cell-cell interactions in Purkinje cell survival and dendritic differentiation, perinatal mouse Purkinje cells were purified, and their development was analyzed in vitro. In isolation at low density, Purkinje cell survival was poor, improved by neuronal contacts, either with purified granule neurons or with Purkinje cells themselves. Moreover, coculture with specific cell populations led to widely different degrees of Purkinje cell differentiation. Purified Purkinje cells cultured alone or with an inappropriate afferent, the mossy fibers, did not progress beyond immature forms. With astroglia, Purkinje cells had thin smooth processes. Proper Purkinje cell differentiation was driven only by coculture with granule cells, resulting in dendrites with spines receiving synapses. These results suggest that Purkinje cell differentiation is regulated by local epigenetic factors, provided in large part by the granule neuron.