Action potential conduction in myelinated nerve fibers depends on a polarized axonal membrane. Voltage-gated Na(+) and K(+) channels are clustered at nodes of Ranvier and mediate the transmembrane currents necessary for rapid saltatory conduction. Paranodal junctions flank nodes and function as attachment sites for myelin and as paracellular and membrane protein diffusion barriers. Common molecular mechanisms, directed by myelinating glia, are used to establish these axonal membrane domains. Initially, heterophilic interactions between glial and axonal cell adhesion molecules define the locations where nodes or paranodes form. Subsequently, within each domain, axonal cell adhesion molecules are stabilized and retained through interactions with cytoskeletal and scaffolding proteins, including ankyrins and spectrins.