Mental and neurological illnesses affect one in four people. While genetic linkage analyses have shown an association of nuclear distribution factor E (NDE1, or NudE) and its ohnolog NDE-like 1 (NDEL1, or Nudel) with mental disorders, the cellular mechanisms remain unclear. In the present study, we have demonstrated that Nde1 and Ndel1 are differentially localised in the subventricular zone (SVZ) of the forebrain and the subgranular zone (SGZ) of the hippocampus, two regions where neurogenesis actively occurs in the adult brain. Nde1, but not Ndel1, is localized to putative SVZ stem cells, and to actively dividing progenitors of the SGZ. The influence of these proteins on neural stem cell differentiation was investigated by overexpression in a hippocampal neural stem cell line, HCN-A94. Increasing Nde1 expression in this neural stem cell line led to increased neuronal differentiation while decreasing levels of astroglial differentiation. In primary cultured neurons and astrocytes, Nde1 and Ndel1 were found to have different but comparable subcellular localizations. In addition, we have shown for the first time that Nde1 is heterogeneously distributed in cortical astrocytes of human brains. Our data indicate that Nde1 and Ndel1 have distinct but overlapping distribution patterns in mouse brain and cultured nerve cells. They may function differently and therefore their dosage changes may contribute to some aspects of mental disorders. © 2014 The Authors.