Abstract To investigate the role of astrocytes in the survival and differentiation of cerebellar neurons during development, we have used astroglial cell clones, derived from 8-day postnatal cerebellar explants and which might be the in vitro equivalents of the 3 main types of cerebellar astrocytes, the Golgi epithelial cells and their Bergmann processes, the velate protoplasmic and the fibrous astrocytes (F. Alliot and B. Pessac, Brain Res., 306 (1984) 283–291). Nearly all single cells, dissociated from 15-day embryonic mouse cerebella and seeded at low density, adhered to layers of each of the cerebellar astroglial cell clones as well as to other glial lines or artificial substrates. However, the cerebellar embryonic neurons survived well only on monolayers of either the ‘Golgi-Bergmann’-like or the ‘velate protoplasmic’-like clones. On these layers, 60–80% of the neurons were still present after 5 days of co-culture, while only less than 5% survived on the other types of substrates. The differentiation pattern of the neurons surviving on the ‘Golgi-Bergmann’ and the ‘velate protoplasmic’ astroglial clones was studied with markers of postmitotic granule cells, the major neuronal population in adult cerebellum. The velate protoplasmic-like clone was the only one able to support the coordinate acquisition by most surviving neurons of the phenotypic characteristics of granule cells, i.e. a distinct morphology, a specific epitope binding the monoclonal antibody 7–8 D2 and immunoreactivity to glutamate. These data show a broad heterogeneity in the capacity of astroglial cell clones to support embryonic cerebellar neurons. In addition, they indicate that neuronal survival per se is not sufficient for the acquisition of a differentiated neuronal phenotype.