To date, the functions of most neural intermediate filament (IF) proteins have remained elusive. Peripherin is a type III intermediate filament (IF) protein that is expressed in developing and in differentiated neurons of the peripheral and enteric nervous systems. It is also the major IF protein expressed in PC12 cells, a widely used model for studies of peripheral neurons. Dramatic increases in peripherin expression have been shown to coincide with the initiation and outgrowth of axons during development and regeneration, suggesting that peripherin plays an important role in axon formation. Recently, small interfering RNAs (siRNA) have provided efficient ways to deplete specific proteins within mammalian cells. In this study, it has been found that peripherin-siRNA depletes peripherin and inhibits the initiation, extension, and maintenance of neurites in PC12 cells. Furthermore, the results of these experiments demonstrate that peripherin IF are critical determinants of the overall shape and architecture of neurons.