The etiology of the Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) still remains elusive. Recent years have witnessed important advances in the delineation of the mechanisms that may operate to produce nerve damage. Evidence gathered from cell biology, immunology, and immunopathology studies in patients with GBS and animals with experimental autoimmune neuritis (EAN) indicate that GBS results from aberrant immune responses against components of peripheral nerve. Autoreactive T lymphocytes specific for the myelin antigens P0 and P2 and circulating antibodies to these antigens and various glycoproteins and glycolipids have been identified but their pathogenic role remains unclear. The multiplicity of these factors and the involvement of several antigen nonspecific proinflammatory mechanisms suggest that a complex interaction of immune pathways results in nerve damage. Data on disturbed humoral immunity with particular emphasis on glycolipid antibodies and on activation of autoreactive T lymphocytes and macrophages will be reviewed. Possible mechanisms underlying initiation of peripheral nerve-directed immune responses will be discussed with particular emphasis on the recently highlighted association with Campylobacter jejuni infection.