The chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan (CSPG) neurocan was previously considered to be nervous-system specific. However, we have found neurocan in the embryonic heart and vasculature. In stage 11 quail embryos, neurocan was prominently expressed in the myocardium, dorsal mesocardium, heart-forming fields, splanchnic mesoderm, and vicinity of the extraembryonic vaculature, and at lower levels in the endocardium. A comparison of neurocan staining with QH1 staining of vascular endothelial cells demonstrates that neurocan is frequently expressed by cells adjacent to endothelial cells, rather than by endothelial cells themselves. In some cases, a dispersed subset of cells are neurocan-positive in a field of cells that otherwise appear uniform in morphology. Later in development, neurocan expression becomes relatively limited to the nervous system. However, even in 10-day embryos, neurocan is expressed in the chorio-allantoic membrane in the tissue that separates closely packed, small-diameter blood vessels. In summary, our results suggest that neurocan may function as a barrier that regulates vascular patterning during development.