The chick genes, cSox2 and cSox3, are members of a large family of genes that encode transcription factors. Previous studies have shown that these genes are predominantly expressed in the central nervous system during embryonic development. We show that cSox3 is expressed throughout the ectoderm that is competent to form nervous tissue before neural induction. The expression of cSox3 is lost from cells as they undergo gastrulation to form nonectodermal tissues; the transcription factor, Brachyury, appears in cells about to undergo gastrulation a short time before cSox3 transcripts are lost. Therefore, Brachyury expression may act functionally upstream of cSox3 downregulation. cSox3 expression is also lost from non-neuronal ectoderm shortly after the neural plate becomes morphologically apparent. cSox2 expression increases dramatically in the central nervous system as neural ectoderm is established. The appearance of cSox2 in neural ectoderm represents one of the earliest molecular responses to neural induction documented thus far. Dev. Dyn. 209:323–332, 1997. © 1997 Wiley-Liss, Inc.