GFAP is the major intermediate filament of mature astrocytes, and its relatively specific expression in these cells suggests an important function. To study the role of the GFAP gene, mice have been created carrying null alleles (no protein), modified alleles (altered protein), or added wild type alleles (elevated protein). Surprisingly, absence of GFAP has relatively subtle effects on development. On the other hand, over-expression can be lethal, and led to the discovery that GFAP coding mutations are responsible for most cases of Alexander disease, a devastating neurodegenerative disorder. Here we review what the various GFAP mouse models reveal about GFAP and astrocyte function. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.