The nature and tissue origin of cultured non-stellate astrocytes have not been defined. On the basis of immunofluorescence microscopy using multiple double-labeling with antibodies to glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), vimentin, and the recently identified intermediate filament-associated protein (IFAP)-70/280kD, four distinct astrocytic subtypes were definable in neonatal rat brain astrocytes in culture. All of these were of the non-stellate type on the basis of morphology. Similar examination of developing rat cerebral cortex identified these same subtypes as distinct differentiation states of astrocytes. These findings indicate that the parallel developmental events can be studied in vitro.