Neurofilaments (Nf) are the major constitutents of the axoskeleton and body fluid Nf levels are an important tool for estimating axonal degeneration in vivo. This paper presents a new sandwich ELISA allowing quantification of the NfH(SMI35) phosphoform from CSF, brain tissue and cell culture homogenates. The sensitivity of the NfH(SMI35) ELISA is 0.2 ng/ml with a recovery of 119% and a mean within- and between-batch precision of 10.6% and 23%, respectively. CSF NfH(SMI35) was stable at 4 degrees C, is not influenced by freeze-thaw cycles, and proteolysis present at room temperature could be prevented by adding protease inhibitors. Aggregate formation was observed for HPLC-purified bovine NfH and could be resolved by sonication. The upper reference value for CSF NfH(SMI35) levels (0.73 ng/ml) was defined as the 95% cumulative frequency from 416 CSF samples. Based on this cutoff, a significantly higher proportion of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, space-occupying lesions, disc prolapse and subarachnoid haemorrhage had pathologically elevated NfH(SMI35) levels compared to patients with cluster headache or demyelinating disease.A new nomenclature is proposed to facilitate the comparison between ELISA, immunoblotting and immunocytochemistry.