We show here that antisense MAP2 oligonucleotides inhibit neurite outgrowth in cultured cerebellar macroneurons. Unlike control neurons, which first extend a lamellipodial veil followed by a consolidation phase during which the cells extend minor neurites, MAP2-suppressed cells persist with lamellipodia and later become rounded. The induction of microtubules containing tyrosinated tubulin, which parallels neurite outgrowth in control neurons, was blocked under antisense conditions. The small but significant increase in acetylated microtubules was not affected. In contrast, the suppression of tau, which selectively blocks axonal elongation, completely prevented the increase of acetylated microtubules, but did not modify the induction of labile microtubules. These results suggest that MAP2 and tau have different functions: the initial establishment of neurites depends upon MAP2, whereas further neurite elongation depends upon tau and microtubule stabilization.