FGFs are well known as mesodermal inducers and they have been reported to have neural inducing and/or caudalizing activity in Xenopus. To evaluate the role of FGFs in neural induction and patterning of the nervous system in chick embryos, we have targeted the ectopic expression of these factors by applying FGF-soaked beads to extended primitive streak chick embryos developing in culture. The whole embryo culture system allows to directly assessing the neural inducing activity on nonneural ectodermal cells. Our results show that FGFs induce the production of ectopic neural structures in the epiblast cell layer which are independent of the endogenous neural tube. The induced neural plates express several neural positional markers (Otx-2, Krox-20, EphA4, EphA7, and cHox-B9), although they lack anterior neural markers such as BF-1. These effects are very likely to be exerted by the direct action of FGF on epiblast cells because we have found no evidence of the induction of an organizer-like activity or of the presence of new axial mesoderm induced by the growth factor. We conclude that FGFs can act as direct neural inducers and that this action is exerted independently from the axial mesoderm.