This review on the role of neurofilaments as surrogate markers for axonal degeneration in neurological diseases provides a brief background to protein synthesis, assembly, function and degeneration. Methodological techniques for quantification are described and a protein nomenclature is proposed. The relevance for recognising anti-neurofilament autoantibodies is noted. Pathological implications are discussed in view of immunocytochemical, cell-culture and genetic findings. With reference to the present symposium on multiple sclerosis, the current literature on body fluid levels of neurofilaments in demyelinating disease is summarised.