Type I lissencephaly is a cortical malformation disorder characterized by disorganized cortical layers and gyral abnormalities and associated with severe cognitive impairment and epilepsy. The exact pathophysiological mechanisms underlying the epilepsy and mental retardation in this and related disorders remain unknown. Two genes, LIS1 and doublecortin, have both been shown to be mutated in a large proportion of cases of type I lissencephaly and a milder allelic disorder, subcortical laminar heterotopia (SCLH). Studying the protein products of these genes and the biochemical pathways in which they belong is likely to yield important information concerning both normal and abnormal cortical development. The relationships between the LIS1 and Doublecortin proteins are not yet well defined, but both are believed to play a critical role in cortical neuronal migration. Lis1 is expressed from very early development in the mouse and in both proliferating cells and post-mitotic neurons of the cortex. This protein is likely to have multiple functions since it is a subunit of the enzyme platelet-activating factor acetylhydrolase, which degrades platelet activating factor, and has also been shown to be involved in microtubule dynamics, potentially influencing nuclear migration through its interaction with the dynein motor protein complex. Doublecortin on the other hand is exclusively expressed in post-mitotic neurons and is developmentally regulated. In young developing neurons Doublecortin has a specific subcellular localization at the ends of neuritic and leading processes. This localization, combined with our previous data showing that it is a microtubule-associated protein and that it interacts with adapter complexes involved in vesicle trafficking, suggests a role in the growth of neuronal processes, downstream of directional or guidance signals. The observations summarized here favor the suggestion that whereas LIS1 may play a role in nuclear migration, Doublecortin is instead restricted to functions at the leading edge of the cell.