Cell migration and outgrowth are thought to be based on analogous mechanisms that require repeated cycles of process extension, reading and integration of multiple directional signals, followed by stabilisation in a preferred direction, and renewed extension. We have characterised a C. elegans gene, unc-53, that appears to act cell autonomously in the migration and outgrowth of muscles, axons and excretory canals. Abrogation of unc-53 function disrupts anteroposterior outgrowth in those cells that normally express the gene. Conversely, overexpression of unc-53 in bodywall muscles leads to exaggerated outgrowth. UNC-53 is a novel protein conserved in vertebrates that contains putative SH3- and actin-binding sites. unc-53 interacts genetically with sem-5 and we demonstrated a direct interaction in vitro between UNC-53 and the SH2-SH3 adaptor protein SEM-5/GRB2. Thus, unc-53 is involved in longitudinal navigation and might act by linking extracellular guidance cues to the intracellular cytoskeleton.