Using primary cultures and immortalized multipotential stem cell lines derived from wild-type and Mash1 mutant neural crest cells, we have analyzed the cellular function of MASH1 in autonomic neurogenesis. We present evidence for the existence of a precursor expressing MASH1 and neuronal markers such as neurofilament, neuron-specific tubulin, and tetanus toxin receptor. This cell has a nonneuronal morphology. Differentiation of this precursor to neurons that express markers such as SCG10, peripherin, and neuron-specific enolase is dependent upon MASH1 function. These data imply that the differentiation of autonomic neurons from uncommitted neural crest cells occurs in several sequential steps. Moreover, they suggest that MASH1 does not commit multipotent cells to a neural fate, like its Drosophila achaete-scute counterparts, but rather promotes the differentiation of a committed neuronal precursor.