Astrocytes provide an optimal surface for attachment, migration, and growth of CNS neurons. Nonetheless, not all astrocytes are alike: our previous work demonstrated a heterogeneity in the ability of cultured astrocyte monolayers to support neuronal growth. Areas displaying a fibrous, uneven surface ( “rocky” astrocytes) were shown to be restrictive substrates, whereas surrounding, flat areas were permissive substrates. However, whether these cell types are in fact different cannot be addressed using mixed cultures. Therefore, in the current study we used morphological criteria to isolate the two subpopulations from mixed astrocyte cultures established from the cerebral cortex of neonatal rats. Following isolation, the purified populations only produced progeny with the same phenotype as the parent cells. We then measured production of several extracellular matrix molecules putatively involved in neuronal guidance during development and quantitatively assessed neuronal behavior on the purified populations. Immunocytochemistry and immunoblotting showed that rocky astrocytes were enriched in tenascin and chondroitin-6- sulfate-containing proteoglycans, but not in laminin or fibronectin. In addition, these astrocytes, as well as their isolated matrix, were a less permissive substrate for neuronal growth than flat astrocytes/matrix. Neurite outgrowth was significantly increased on rocky astrocytes following treatment with chondroitinase ABC or AC, but not heparitinase or hyaluronidase. These data support a critical role for matrix-bound chondroitin-6-sulfate-containing proteoglycans. We hypothesize that rocky astrocytes represent a subtype of cells which form barriers to neuronal growth during cortical development.