Lineage-tracing experiments have shown that some premigratory neural crest cells generate both sensory (S) and autonomic (A) derivatives, whereas others generate only S derivatives. Whether this lineage heterogeneity reflects random variation in a homogeneous population or an early sensory specification of some premigratory crest cells has not been clear. Using Cre recombinase-based fate mapping, we show that GDF7, which is exclusively expressed in the roof plate, marks neural crest cells with a 10-fold higher bias to the sensory lineage than those marked (at the same stage of development) by an inducible Wnt1-Cre, which is expressed more broadly in the dorsal neural tube. In vitro, GDF7 has potent sensory neuron-inducing activity. These data suggest that some premigratory crest cells are deterministically restricted to the S lineage and implicate GDF7 itself in this restriction process.