Numerous studies of the past decade have illuminated the importance of intercellular adhesion events for neural pattern formation. It has been documented that members of the Ig and cadherin gene superfamilies, that glycoproteins and, probably to some extent, proteoglycans of the extracellular matrix play a role in this context. Recent observations suggest that, in addition to adhesive interactions, repulsive and/or inhibitory phenoma are also of importance in regulating neural pattern formation. Several molecules are under study which are considered possible mediators of inhibitory interactions in the nervous system. The hypothesis has been advanced that some of these might be partially responsible for restrictive, boundary-like properties ascribed to glial cells in developing and regenerating tissues. The current review summarizes these studies and focusses on molecular aspects of boundary and compartmentation phenomena.