The intermediate filament (IF) synemin gene encodes three IF proteins (H 180, M 150, L 41 kDa isoforms) with overlapping distributions. In the present study we analysed the mRNA and protein expression of each isoform in developing mouse embryos. Synemin M mRNA was present as early as E5 with vimentin and nestin. Synemin H was found later at E9 in the nervous system and mesodermic derivatives concomitantly with angiogenesis, somitogenesis and the migration of neural crest cells. Synemin L appeared later in neurons at E15. Furthermore, the synemin isoforms required different IF partners depending on the cell type to form filamentous structures. In endothelial cells, synemin H/M were found associated with vimentin and were absent in vimentin-null mice. In neurons of the peripheral nervous system of E15 embryos, synemin H/M or L were co-expressed with neurofilament, peripherin and internexin. In adult mice, our data support the existence of different subpopulations of neurons within the dorsal root ganglia: one composed of small neurons containing synemin H/M and peripherin, and another composed of large neurons containing synemin L and neurofilaments. Axons devoid of neurofilaments from mutant mice (NFHLacZ) showed an absence of the L isoform but contained H/M isoforms with peripherin.