Oligodendrocyte responses in vitro to platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) include proliferation, survival, migration, and changes in cell morphology and molecular expression. Studies of mixed glial cultures established that astrocytes secrete PDGF; thus astrocytes are considered to be key regulators of oligodendrocyte development in vitro. We previously demonstrated PDGF alpha receptor mRNA expression by oligodendrocyte progenitors and preoligodendrocytes during postnatal development of rat cerebral cortex. In the present study, we have mapped the spatial and temporal expression of PDGF A-chain ligand mRNA and alpha receptor mRNA to determine if the cell-cell interactions that form the basis for PDGF regulation of oligodendrocyte development in vitro are also present in vivo. By in situ hybridization (ISH) we demonstrate that at embryonic day 17 (E17) cells expressing receptor mRNA (PDGFR alpha +) are initially in the subventricular zone, at a distance from cells expressing ligand mRNA (PDGF+) in the cortical plate. By E20 PDGFR alpha + cells are found throughout the corpus callosum and cortical gray matter. PDGF+ cells are restricted to the cortical plate prenatally and only appeared in the corpus callosum postnatally. Combined immunocytochemistry and ISH demonstrated the PDGF+ cells colocalized with neurofilament, but not with GFAP. These data establish that PDGF is expressed by neurons during PDGFR alpha + oligodendrocyte progenitor migration from the subventricular zone to the corpus callosum and gray matter. Furthermore, neurons continue to express PDGF during the generation and differentiation of appropriate numbers of oligodendrocytes needed to myelinate axons as the nervous system matures.