The immunocytochemical localization of the neural cell adhesion molecules L1, N-CAM and J1/tenascin was investigated by light and electron microscopical techniques in murine Pacinian corpuscles during development, in the adult and in the regenerating state. In adult corpuscles, L1 was present only at contact sites between the sensory axon and inner core lamellae. From birth, the earliest stage tested, until day 7, L1 was additionally expressed on lamellar processes of the inner core cells. N-CAM was expressed in developing and adult corpuscles on lamellae and somata of the inner and outer core cells at their contact sites but was hardly detectable at contact sites between axolemma and inner core lamellae. J1/tenascin was found only in association with the extracellular material of the inner core, especially with the two radial clefts and the boundary space between inner and outer core. In developing corpuscles, J1/tenascin became detectable on extracellular material with the onset of inner core differentiation at approximately day 2. After transection or crush of the sciatic nerve, L1 disappeared from the corpuscles but reappeared with regrowing axons at contact sites between axonal membranes and inner core cells. At any regenerative stage inner core cells remained L1-negative. In denervated and reinnervated corpuscles the expression pattern of N-CAM and J1/tenascin did not differ from the normal adult. These observations suggest that a sensory organ, the Pacinian corpuscle, differs from the sciatic nerve and the neuromuscular junction in that its expression of adhesion molecules remains the same in the denervated state as in the innervated adult. Furthermore, in the denervated Pacinian corpuscle, adhesion molecule expression does not resemble that of any developmental stage tested. Thus, other cures than regulation of adhesion molecule expression patterns might be involved in the successful reinnervation of sensory corpuscles.