Non-pluripotent neural progenitor cells (NPCs) derived from the human fetal central nervous system were found to express a number of mRNA species associated with pluripotency, such as NANOG, REX1 and OCT4. The expression was restricted to small subpopulations of NPCs. In contrast to pluripotent stem cells there was no co-expression of the pluripotency-associated genes studied. Although expression of these genes rapidly declined during in vitro differentiation of NPCs, we found no evidence that the discrete expression was associated with markers of the multipotent neural stem cells (NSCs) (CD133+/CD24lo), with the capacity of sphere-formation or high cell proliferation rates. The rate of cell death among NPCs expressing pluripotency-associated genes was also similar to other NPCs. Live-cell imaging showed that NANOG- and REX1-expressing NPCs continuously changed morphology, as did the non-expressing cells. Depletion experiments showed that after complete removal of the subpopulations of NANOG- and REX1-expressing NPCs, expression of these genes appeared in other NPCs within a few days. The percentage of NANOG- and REX1-expressing cells returned to as prior to depletion. Our results are best explained by a model in which there is stochastic transient expression of pluripotency-associated genes in proliferating NPCs.