The subventricular zone of the adult mammalian forebrain contains progenitor cells that, by migrating along a restricted pathway called the 'rostral migratory stream' (RMS), add new neurons to the olfactory bulb throughout life. To determine the influence of the olfactory bulb on the development of these progenitor cells, we performed lesions that interrupt this pathway and separate the olfactory bulb from the rest of the forebrain. By labelling cells born at several survival times after the lesions with the thymidine analogue bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU), we found that disconnection from the bulb influences the rate of BrdU incorporation by the progenitor cells. The number of labelled cells in lesioned mice was almost half that found in control mice. In the disconnected migratory pathway, the number of neurons expressing calretinin was increased indicating that neuronal differentiation was enhanced: newly born neurons occurred within and around the RMS, most of them expressed calretinin and left the pathway starting about 2 weeks after the lesion. Thereafter, these neurons preserving their phenotype, spread for long distances, and accumulated ectopically in dorsal regions of the anterior olfactory nucleus and the frontal cortex. Finally, transplantation of adult subventricular cells into the lesioned pathway showed that the lesion neither prevents neuronal migration nor alters its direction. Thus, although the olfactory bulb appears to regulate the pace of the developmental processes, its disconnection does not prevent the proliferation, migration and phenotypic acquisition of newly generated bulbar interneurons that, since they cannot reach their terminal domains, populate some precise regions of the lesioned adult forebrain.