During early stages of brain development, neuroepithelial stem cells undergo intense proliferation as neurogenesis begins. Fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF2) has been involved in the regulation of these processes, and although it has been suggested that they work in an autocrine-paracrine mode, there is no general agreement on this because the behavior of neuroepithelial cells is not self-sufficient in explants cultured in vitro. In this work, we show that during early stages of development in chick embryos there is another source of FGF2, besides that of the neuroepithelium, which affects the brain primordium, since the cerebrospinal fluid (E-CSF) contains several isoforms of this factor. We also demonstrate, both in vitro and in vivo, that the FGF2 from the E-CSF has an effect on the regulation of neuroepithelial cell behavior, including cell proliferation and neurogenesis. In order to clarify putative sources of FGF2 in embryonic tissues, we detected by in situ hybridization high levels of mRNA expression in notochord, mesonephros and hepatic primordia, and low levels in brain neuroectoderm, corroborated by semiquantitative PCR analysis. Furthermore, we show that the notochord segregates several FGF2 isoforms which modify the behavior of the neuroepithelial cells in vitro. In addition, we show that the FGF2 ligand is present in the embryonic serum; and, by means of labeled FGF2, we prove that this factor passes via the neuroepithelium from the embryonic serum to the E-CSF in vivo. Considering all these results, we propose that, in chick embryos, the behavior of brain neuroepithelial stem cells at the earliest stages of development is influenced by the action of the FGF2 contained within the E-CSF which could have an extraneural origin, thus suggesting a new and complementary way of regulating brain development.