Cellular repair of neuronal circuitry affected by neurodegenerative disease or injury may be approached in the adult neocortex via transplantation of neural precursors ("neural stem cells") or via molecular manipulation and recruitment of new neurons from endogenous precursors in situ. A major challenge for potential future approaches to neuronal replacement will be to specifically direct and control progressive differentiation, axonal projection and connectivity of neural precursors along a specific neuronal lineage. This goal will require a progressively more detailed understanding of the molecular controls over morphologic differentiation of specific neuronal lineages, including neurite outgrowth and elongation, in order to accurately permit and direct proper neuronal integration and connectivity. Here, we investigate controls over the morphologic differentiation of a specific prototypical lineage of cortical neurons: callosal projection neurons (CPN). We highly enriched CPN to an essentially pure population, and cultured them at three distinct stages of development from embryonic and postnatal mouse cortex by retrograde fluorescence labelling, followed by fluorescence-activated cell sorting. We find that specific peptide growth factors exert direct stage-specific positive and negative effects over the morphologic differentiation and process outgrowth of CPN. These effects are distinct from the effects of these growth factors on CPN survival [Catapano et al. (2001)J. Neurosci., 21, 8863-8872]. These data may be critical for the future goal of directing lineage-specific neuronal differentiation of transplanted or endogenous precursors/"stem cells" toward cellular repair of complex cortical circuitry.