The neural crest-derived cells that colonize the bowel are different from their predecessors in the premigratory crest. A procedure, which utilized the immunoselection of cells with a magnet, was thus devised to obtain crest-derived precursors from developing gut. Primary antibodies against cell surface antigens, NC-1 in chick, quail, and rat, or antibodies to a 110-kDa laminin binding protein (alpha-110) in mouse, were used in conjunction with secondary antibodies coupled to magnetic beads. Immediately after immunoselection with NC-1, almost all of the selected cells were NC-1-immunoreactive. Neurons and glia, identified immunocytochemically with antibodies to specific markers, developed preferentially in cultures of immunoselected cells. Some of the phenotypes expressed by neurons arising in vitro were appropriate for the bowel (serotonin- and vasoactive intestinal peptide-immunoreactive); however, catecholaminergic neurons, which are not present in the enteric nervous system, also differentiated in the cultures. Neuronal development, as well as neurite outgrowth, were promoted by laminin. Cells selected with alpha-110 from the fetal murine bowel preferentially gave rise in vitro to neurons and glia. These data suggest that the population of crest-derived cells that colonizes the gut is multipotent, that development of catecholaminergic neurons in situ is prevented by the intact enteric microenvironment, that laminin is important in the formation of enteric ganglia, and that the 110-kDa laminin binding protein is expressed on the surfaces of the immediate precursors of enteric neurons and glia.