This review addresses the contribution of in vitro investigations to our understanding of neural crest development. Cell culture has been used to study the environmental control of cell lineage decisions in the neural crest and to define the developmental potentials of specific populations of neural crest and neural crest-derived cells. We consider the roles of environmental signals in the context of the development of several different neural crest-derived lineages. We also discuss evidence for influences of local cell-cell interactions and substrate molecules on neural crest development. Data bearing on the issues of neural crest cell multipotency, self-renewal, and lineage commitment are reviewed.