The myelin basic proteins are a set of peripheral membrane polypeptides which play an essential role in myelination. Their most well-documented property is the unique ability to ‘seal’ the cytoplasmic aspects of the myelin membrane, but this is probably not the only function for these highly charged molecules. Despite extensive homology, the individual myelin basic proteins (MBPs) exhibit different expression patterns and biochemical properties, and so it is now believed that the various isoforms are not functionally equivalent in myelinating cells. We now think that while the major MBPs are intracellular adhesion molecules, some of the quantitatively less abundant isoforms that are expressed very early in development may have regulatory effects on the myelination program.