Brain spectrin, a membrane-related cytoskeletal protein, exists as two isoforms. Brain spectrin 240/235 is localized preferentially in the perikaryon and axon of neuronal cells and brain spectrin 240/235E is found essentially in the neuronal soma and dendrites and in glia (Riederer et al., 1986, J. Cell Biol., 102, 2088 - 2097). The sensory neurons in dorsal root ganglia, devoid of any dendrites, make a good tool to investigate such differential expression of spectrin isoforms. In this study expression and localization of both brain spectrin isoforms were analysed during early chicken dorsal root ganglia development in vivo and in culture. Both isoforms appeared at embryonic day 6. Brain spectrin 240/235 exhibited a transient increase during embryonic development and was first expressed in ventrolateral neurons. In ganglion cells in situ and in culture this spectrin type showed a somato - axonal distribution pattern. In contrast, brain spectrin 240/235E slightly increased between E6 and E15 and remained practically unchanged. It was localized mainly in smaller neurons of the mediodorsal area as punctate staining in the cytoplasm, was restricted exclusively to the ganglion cell perikarya and was absent from axons both in situ and in culture. This study suggests that brain spectrin 240/235 may contribute towards outgrowth, elongation and maintenance of axonal processes and that brain spectrin 240/235E seems to be exclusively involved in the stabilization of the cytoarchitecture of cell bodies in a selected population of ganglion cells.