The expression of peripherin, a type III neuron-specific intermediate filament protein, and the middle neurofilament subunit were studied in the mouse embryo using immunofluorescence staining. The earliest staining for both proteins is seen at embryonic day 9 in the myelencephalon, initially as fiber staining followed by cell body staining in the developing facial and acoustic nuclei. As the embryo develops, there is rostral as well as caudal extension of peripherin and staining is seen in the trigeminal ganglia, nerve fibers and in the enteric nervous system. As the spinal cord forms there is anti-peripherin staining in developing motoneurons of the anterior horns while little cell body staining is seen for the middle neurofilament subunit. Both antibodies stain the developing dorsal root and its entry zone, but peripherin is found in the secondary sensory and commissural fibers while the middle neurofilament subunit is not. While both proteins are found in the neurons of the dorsal root ganglia, their distribution varies. The larger peripheral cells of the ganglia contain both proteins while the smaller more central cells, constituting over 60% of the cells in the ganglia, contain only peripherin. A similar picture is found in the sympathetic ganglia where there are cells which contain peripherin. middle neurofilament subunit or both, but where the majority of the neurons have only peripherin in their cell bodies. Peripherin is not found in the developing retina or in the adrenal medulla. Peripherin is also completely absent from cell bodies in the cerebral and cerebellar cortices. These results indicate that peripherin is found in development only in regions in which it is found in the adult. It can either co-exist with neurofilaments in the same neuron or the two may be independently expressed.