Immunocytological localization of the major glycoprotein of peripheral myelin P0 and its associated carbohydrate structures L2/HNK-1 and L3 was performed at the light- and electron-microscopic levels in mouse sciatic nerves at several developmental stages and in adulthood. P0 was first expressed on Schwann cells at the time that Schwann cells associated with axons on a 1:1 basis. P0 remains expressed at all times of myelin formation and in compact myelin. After cessation of myelination P0 is no longer detectable in the uncompacted parts of myelin, i.e., Schmidt-Lanterman incisures, paranodal loops, and outer and inner mesaxons. P0 is not detectable on basement membranes, interstitial collagens, and non-myelin-forming Schwann cells. The associated carbohydrate epitope L2 does not follow the expression of P0 at any developmental or adult stage. Until 21 days the L2 epitope is confined to nonmyelinated fibers. In sciatic nerves of mice older than 8 weeks, however, only a few nonmyelinated fibers remain L2-positive. L2 immunoreactivity is clearly seen in a subpopulation of compact myelin figures largely associated with motor fibers. The L3 epitope is never detectable on nonmyelinated fibers and becomes first visible when compact myelin is discerned. Unlike the L2 epitope L3 is present in most, if not all, compact myelin figures. These observations suggest that P0 may be involved in ensheathment of axons by Schwann cells at the decisive stages of initiation of myelination and later on, possibly in conjunction with the L3 carbohydrate structure, in maintenance of compact myelin. The appearance of the L2 carbohydrate epitopes in compact myelin of largely motor and fewer sensory nerve fibers at times when morphogenesis of myelin has ceased remains to be elucidated in functional terms.