Pathfinding of axons in the developing nervous system is thought to be mediated by glycoproteins expressed on the surface of embryonic axons and growth cones. One molecule suggested to play a role in axonal growth is TAG-1, a 135 kd glycoprotein expressed transiently on the surface of subsets of neurons in the developing mammalian nervous system. We isolated a full-length cDNA clone encoding rat TAG-1. TAG-1 has six immunoglobulin-like domains and four fibronectin type III-like repeats and is structurally similar to other immunoglobulin-like proteins expressed on developing axons. Neurons maintained in vitro on a substrate of TAG-1 extend long neurites, suggesting that this protein plays a role in the initial growth and guidance of axons in vivo. TAG-1 is anchored to the neuronal membrane via a glycosyl phosphatidylinositol linkage and is also released from neurons, suggesting that TAG-1 also functions as a substrate adhesion molecule when released into the extracellular environment.