Several bHLH proteins are involved in vertebrate neurogenesis, but those controlling early stages of neuronal determination have not yet been identified. Here we describe a novel, NeuroD-related bHLH protein, NEUROGENIN, whose expression precedes that of NeuroD in both mouse and Xenopus. Expression of Xenopus NEUROGENIN-related-1 (X-NGNR-1) defines the three prospective territories of primary neurogenesis. Overexpression of X-NGNR-1 (or NEUROGENIN) induces ectopic neurogenesis and ectopic expression of XNeuroD mRNA. Endogenous X-ngnr-1 expression becomes restricted to subsets of cells by lateral inhibition, mediated by X-Delta-1 and X-Notch. The properties of X-NGNR-1 are thus analogous to those of the Drosophila proneural genes, suggesting that it functions as a vertebrate neuronal determination factor.