Despite some progress in the treatment of congenital malformations of the enteric nervous system, there is no knowledge about the pathogenesis. The study of the normal formation of the enteric nervous system is hampered by the difficulty of manipulating and culturing mammalian embryos and their organs. Three methods to culture bowel explants of murine embryos, (choriollantoic membrane grafting, organotypic tissue culture, and renal subcapsular space grafting) were compared. The three-dimensional cytoarchitecture of the bowel developed almost normally in the renal subcapsular space cultures. Using this culture system, it was found that neural crest cells colonize the murine bowel in distinct phases. The distal bowel was colonized at the 13th day of development. In a spontaneous mouse mutant model for intestinal aganglionosis, the lethal spotted mouse, the colonization of the distal 2 mm of the bowel did not occur at E13.