The study of both the function and development of complex neural systems would be greatly facilitated by a means for systematically blocking intercell communication. One way of preventing cells from signaling each other is to remove them from the system by ablation. Here we present a general technique for visualizing and ablating selected cell classes in vivo. The cells of interest are genetically engineered so that they can be selectively labeled with a photoactivatable dye and visualized in living preparations; the dye- labeled cells can then be photoablated. This approach is applicable to a broad range of cell types, in organisms amenable to gene transfer, and permits ablations to be performed at different developmental stages or in the adult. We demonstrate the use of this technique on several cell types in the mouse retina and cerebral cortex, and in the zebrafish embryo.