Chromatin repeat lengths in neuronal, glial, and liver nuclei of the rat were determined by micrococcal nuclease digestion followed by gel electrophoresis. The repeat length of cortex neurons decreased from 200 base pairs (bp) before birth to 170 bp at 14 days and all subsequent stages. Administration of [3H]thymidine to pregnant rats during the period of fetal neurogenesis allowed neurons differing in their time of origin to be labeled individually. This revealed that the shortening of the chromatin repeat length affected only neurons generated early during development, i.e., between gestational days 13/14 and 18/19, whereas neurons continuing to proliferate beyond gestational day 19 and up to birth (day 22) did not undergo shortening of their repeat length. In contrast to the cortex neurons, cerebellar neurons (granule cells) underwent lengthening of the repeat length from 165 bp at fetal and early post-natal stages (up to day 4) to 218 bp after day 30. Thus, in both cortex and cerebellar neurons the changes occurred temporally coincident with major developmental processes. No changes were detected in liver nuclei during the same period. Non-astrocytic glia cells of the adult cortex had 200 bp repeats.