The appearance of the glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) during embryonic and postnatal development of the rat brain and spinal cord and in rat sciatic nerve during postnatal development was examined by the immunoblot technique. Cytoskeletal proteins were isolated from the central and peripheral nervous system and separated by SDS slab gel electrophoresis or two-dimensional gel electrophoresis. Proteins from the acrylamide gels were transferred to nitrocellulose sheets which were treated with anti-bovine GFAP serum and GFAP was identified by the immunoblot technique. GFAP was present in the embryonic rat brain and spinal cord at 14 and 16 days of gestation respectively. The appearance of GFAP at this stage of neural development suggests that the synthesis of GFAP may be related to the proliferation of radial glial cells from which astrocytes are derived. It is also feasible that GFAP provides structural support for the radial glial cell processes analogous to its role in differentiated astrocytes. GFAP was found to be present in rat sciatic nerves at birth and at all subsequent stages of development. These results indicate that some cellular elements in the rat sciatic nerve, such as Schwann cells, are capable of synthesizing GFAP which is immunochemically indistinguishable from its counterpart in the central nervous system. Thus it appears that GFAP is present both in the central and peripheral nervous system of the rat when the glial cells synthesizing GFAP are still undergoing differentiation.