Searching for specific markers of neural crest-derived cell lineages, we immunized mice with glycoproteins purified from adult quail peripheral myelin. We obtained a monoclonal antibody that reacts with myelin and peripheral glial cells. This antibody, to Schwann cell myelin protein (SMP), is specific for the membranes of all Schwann cells, irrespective of whether they are associated with myelinated nerves. SMP persists on Schwann cells in long-term cultures in vitro, but is absent from satellite cells of peripheral ganglia, both in vivo and in vitro. The antigen (a protein doublet of Mr 75,000-80,000) is present in, but not restricted to, the myelin lamellae, since it is distributed along the whole myelinating Schwann cell membrane. In the CNS, SMP appears as a single band of Mr 80,000. SMP is first detectable by immunofluorescence at E6 in the quail, which is at least 6 days earlier than the first appearance of already described markers related to myelination.