Patterning of the ventral half of the neural tube results from the inductive influence of the notochord and of the floor plate. We have studied here the effect of an ectopically grafted notochord on the development of the dorsalmost part of the neural tube i.e. roof plate and alar plates. We show that at their early stages, dorsal genes are repressed by the dorsal graft of a notochord, as shown previously in other studies. We found also that when the notochord is implanted in a mediodorsal position on top of the roof plate (and not laterally as previously performed in other studies) the genes specifics of the floor plate are not induced, and motoneurons do not differentiate. The notochord prevents the formation of the medial septum from roof plate cells and induces their active proliferation between E5 and E7. Roof and dorsal alar plates derived cells start to die from E7 onward leaving a dorsally truncated spinal cord. If the notochord is grafted at 20 degrees-30 degrees from the sagittal plane ventral genes and structures are induced and the roof plate differentiates normally. We conclude that roof plate cells exhibit a specific response to notochord signals, the short range effect of which is thus strikingly demonstrated.