We have previously shown that myelinating Schwann cells associated with motor, but not sensory, axons in peripheral nerves of adult mice express the L2/HNK-1 carbohydrate epitope. This carbohydrate structure carried by glycolipids and neural cell adhesion molecules has been suggested to specifically foster regrowth of motor as opposed to sensory axons after infliction of a lesion. To determine which molecular components may be the carriers of the L2 carbohydrate in motor axon-associated myelinating Schwann cells, we have isolated the purely sensory, cutaneous branch and the mixed sensory and motor muscle branch of the femoral nerve of adult mice, isolated the myelin fraction thereof and analysed the molecules expressing the L2 carbohydrate by several immunochemical methods. L2 immunoreactivity in myelin of the muscle branch was four to five times higher than that of the cutaneous branch. The 110 kDa L2-immunoreactive glycoprotein in myelin of the muscle branch, which is not L2-immunoreactive in the cutaneous branch, was identified as the myelin-associated glycoprotein by a combination of immunoprecipitation and Western blot analysis. Myelin extraction with organic solvents additionally revealed the two L2-carrying glycolipids, which amounted to-40 ng glycolipid/mg dry weight in myelin of the muscle branch, whereas no significant amounts of the L2 glycolipids were found in myelin of the cutaneous branch. These observations suggest an astonishing degree of differential regulation of carbohydrate-synthesizing activities in myelinating Schwann cells.