Neurofilaments, which are exclusively found in nerve cells, are one of the earliest recognizable features of the maturing nervous system. The differential distribution of neurofilament proteins in varying degrees of phosphorylation within a neuron provides the possibility of selectively demonstrating either somata and dendrites or axons. Non-phosphorylated neurofilaments typical of somata and dendrites can be visualized with the aid of monoclonal antibody SMI 311, whereas antibody SMI 312 is directed against highly phosphorylated axonal epitopes of neurofilaments. The maturation of neuronal types, the development of area-specific axonal networks, and the gradients of maturation can thus be demonstrated. Optimal immunostaining with SMI 311 and SMI 312 is achieved when specimens are fixed in a mixture of paraformaldehyde and picric acid for up to 3 days and sections are incubated free-floating. Neurons, with their dendritic domains immunostained by SMI 311 in a Golgi-like manner, can be completely visualized in relatively thick sections. The limitations of Golgi-preparations, such as glia-labeling, artifacts, and the staining of only a small non-representative percentage of existing neurons, are not apparent in SMI preparations, which additionally provide the possibility of selectively staining axonal networks. The results achieved in normal fetal brain provide the basis for studies of developmental disturbances.