Recent evidence indicates that oligodendrocytes originate initially from the ventral neural tube. We have documented in chick embryos the effect of early ventralization of the dorsal neural tube on oligodendrocyte differentiation. Notochord or floor plate grafted at stage 10 in dorsal position induced the development of oligodendrocyte precursors in the dorsal spinal cord. In vitro, oligodendrocytes differentiated from medial but not intermediate neural plate explants, suggesting that the ventral restriction of oligodendrogenesis is established early. Furthermore, quail fibroblasts overexpressing the ventralizing signal Sonic Hedgehog induced oligodendrocyte differentiation in both the intermediate neural plate and the E4 dorsal spinal cord. These results strongly suggest that the emergence of the oligodendrocyte lineage is related to the establishment of the dorso-ventral polarity of the neural tube.