The annexins are a family of cytoplasmic proteins that have been shown to have numerous actions within a cell. Recent evidence suggests that at least one of these proteins plays a role in the development of the central nervous system (CNS). The present study examines the temporal expression and spatial distribution of annexins I, II, IV, V, and VI during development and at maturity in the murine CNS by immunocytochemical analysis. The results demonstrate that annexins I, II and IV exhibit clear immunolabeling in the murine CNS with distinct patterns of temporal and spatial expression. Annexin IV is the first annexin to be expressed on embryonic day (E) 9.5 while annexin I is the last to be expressed (E11.5). Annexins I, II and IV are found in the floor plate region, but to differing rostrocaudal extents. Annexin I has a very restricted distribution, only present in the midline raphe of the brainstem. Annexin II is present in the spinal cord, brainstem and mesencephalon. Annexin IV has the widest midline distribution, being observed in the floor and roof plates of the developing CNS. Additionally, antibodies against annexin II and IV immunolabel most dorsal root and sensory ganglion cells and their axons. During early postnatal development, immunolabeling with each antibody gradually disappears in many structures, and only first order sensory neurons and their fibers are immunopositive for annexins II and IV at weaning. Three functions of the annexins are suggested by the present findings: (1) to help establish the midline structures of the floor and roof plates, (2) to help direct the decussation of sensory fibers, and (3) to regulate some aspect of sensory neuron processing, such as signal transduction.