Abstract In the chick metencephalon, oligodendrocyte precursors arise in distinct domains of the ventricular zone. During development, the earliest oligodendrocyte precursors appear in the metencephalic ventral ventricular zone adjacent to the midline, consistent with their location in the spinal cord. In contrast to spinal cord, however, distinct domains in the lateral and dorsal metencephalic ventricular zone subsequently generate oligodendrocyte precursors. All oligodendrogenic domains of the metencephalon appear in close apposition to regions that transiently express sonic hedgehog (Shh). Inhibition studies demonstrate a functional requirement for Shh signaling in the early appearance of metencephalic oligodendrocyte precursors, while in vitro studies suggest a dose-dependent increase in the number of oligodendrocyte precursors in response to Shh. In purified cultures of oligodendrocyte precursors, Shh promotes cell survival and proliferation, suggesting that Shh can act directly on these cells. These data suggest that Shh may be responsible for the localized appearance of oligodendrocyte precursors throughout the CNS, irrespective of the dorso-ventral neural axis.