We investigated the expression and functions of chemokine receptors in neural progenitor cells isolated from embryonic and adult mice. Reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis demonstrated mRNA expression for most known chemokine receptors in neural progenitor cells grown as neurospheres from embryonic (E17) and adult (4-week-old) mice. The expression of CXCR4 receptors was demonstrated further in E17 neurospheres using immunohistochemistry, in situ hybridization, Northern blot analysis and fura-2-based Ca2+ imaging. Most neurospheres grown from E17 mice responded to stromal cell-derived factor-1 (SDF-1/CXCL12) in Ca2+ imaging studies. In addition, immunohistochemical studies demonstrated that these neurospheres consisted of dividing cells that uniformly colocalized nestin and CXCR4 receptors. Differentiation of E17 neurospheres yielded astrocytes and neurons exhibiting several different phenotypes, including expression of calbindin, calretinin, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and glutamate, and many also coexpressed CXCR4 receptors. In addition, neurospheres grown from the subventricular zone (SVZ) of 4-week-old mice exhibited large increases in Ca2+ in response to CXCL12 and several other chemokines. In comparison, neurospheres prepared from olfactory bulb of adult mice exhibited only small Ca2+ responses to CXCL12, whereas neurospheres prepared from hippocampus were insensitive to CXCL12, although they did respond to other chemokines. Investigations designed to investigate whether CXCL12 can act as a chemoattractant demonstrated that cells dissociated from E17 or adult SVZ neurospheres migrated toward an CXCL12 gradient and this was blocked by the CXCR4 antagonist AMD3100. These results illustrate widespread chemokine sensitivity of embryonic and adult neural progenitor cells and support the view that chemokines may be of general importance in control of progenitor cell migration in embryonic and adult brain. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.