The chronic survival and differentiation of the conditionally immortalized neuronal cell line, RN33B, was examined following transplantation into the adult and neonatal rat hippocampus and cerebral cortex. In clonal culture, differentiated RN33B cells express p75NTR and trkB mRNA and protein, and respond to brain-derived neurotrophic factor treatment by inducing c-fos mRNA. Transplanted cells, identified using immunohistochemistry to detect beta- galactosidase expression, were seen in most animals up to 24 weeks posttransplantation (the latest time point examined). Stably integrated cells with various morphologies consistent with their transplantation site were observed. In the cerebral cortex, many RN33B cells differentiated with morphologies similar to pyramidal neurons and stellate cells. In the hippocampal formation, many RN33B cells assumed morphologies similar to pyramidal neurons characteristic of CA1 and CA3 regions, granular cell layer neurons of the dentate gyrus, and polymorphic neurons of the hilar region. Identical morphologies were observed in both adult and neonatal hosts, although a greater percentage of beta-galactosidase immunoreactive cells had differentiated in the neonatal brains. These results suggest that RN33B cells have the developmental plasticity to respond to local microenvironmental signals and that the adult brain retains the capacity to direct the differentiation of neuronal precursor cells in a direction that is consistent with that of endogenous neurons.