The induction of pluripotent P19 embryonal carcinoma (EC) cells with retinoic acid results in their differentiation into cells that resemble neurons, glia, and fibroblasts. To isolate and enrich the developing neurons from heterogeneously differentiating P19 EC cells, we used a recently introduced protocol combining the expression of green fluorescent protein (GFP) driven by a tissue-specific promoter and fluorescence-activated cell sorting. Cells were transfected with the gene for GFP, which is under the control of the neuronal Tal tubulin promoter. After four days of retinoic acid treatment, GFP was specifically detected in cells undergoing neuronal differentiation. Sorting of fluorescent differentiating P19 EC transfectants yielded populations highly enriched in neuronal precursors and neurons. Immunoreactivity for nestin and neurofilament was observed in 80 and 25% of the sorted cell population, respectively. These results demonstrate that differentiated neuronal precursor cells can be efficiently isolated from differentiating pluripotent embryonic cells in vitro, suggesting that this method can reproducibly provide homogeneous materials for further studies on neurogenesis. (C) 2001 ISDN. Published by Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.