During neurogenesis in Drosophila, ectodermal cells are endowed with the capacity to become neuronal precursors. Following their selection, these cells initiate neuronal lineage development and differentiation. The processes of neuronal precursor specification and neuronal lineage development require the activities of several groups of genes functioning in a complex, hierarchical regulatory network. Whereas the proneural genes promote neurogenic potential, neurogenic genes restrict the acquisition of this identity to a subset of ectodermal cells. Following their selection, these cells express the pan neural neuronal precursor genes and a set of neuronal lineage identity genes. While lineage identity genes allow the various lineages to acquire specific identities, neuronal precursor genes presumably regulate functional and developmental characteristics common to all neuronal precursor cells.