The mammalian neocortex is subdivided into functionally distinct areas differing in cytoarchitecture and connectivity. Areal specification is thought to occur late in development and to be controlled by extrinsic cues, particularly thalamic afferents. We have produced a transgenic mouse line in which beta-galactosidase expression in the neocortex is largely restricted to layer-IV neurons of the somatosensory area. Transgene expression in these mice may be considered as an intrinsic marker of a somatosensory cortex identity. We investigated whether the fate of pieces of embryonic cortex from transgenic embryos is modified after transplantation to ectopic locations. Parietal or occipital cortex obtained on embryonic days 14-16 maintained their characteristics with respect to transgene expression after heterotopic transplantation to the cerebellum or neocortex of newborn hosts. This shows that the specification of neocortical areas involves a previously unsuspected early step of areal determination.