Abstract In the developing CNS, the manifestation of the macroglial phenotypes is delayed behind the formation of neurons. The “neurons first – glia second” principle seems to be valid for neural tissue differentiation throughout the neuraxis, but the reasons behind are far from clear. In the presented study, the mechanisms of this timing were investigated in vitro, in the course of the neural differentiation of one cell derived NE-4C neuroectodermal stem and P19 embryonic carcinoma cells. The data demonstrated that astrocyte formation coincided in time with the maturation of postmitotic neurons, but the close vicinity of neurons did not initate astrocyte formation before schedule. All- trans retinoic acid, a well-known inducer of neuronal differentiation, on the other hand, blocked effectively the astroglia production if present in defined stages of the in vitro neuroectodermal cell differentiation. According to the data, retinoic acid plays at least a dual role in astrogliogenesis: while it is needed for committing neural progenitors for a future production of astrocytes, it prevents premature astrogliogenesis by inhibiting the differentiation of primed glial progenitors.