The roles of neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM), L1, N-cadherin, and integrin in neurite outgrowth on various substrates were studied. Antibodies against these cell surface molecules were added to explants of chick retina and the neurites from retinal ganglion cells were examined for effects of the antibodies on neurite length and fasciculation. On laminin, an anti-integrin antibody completely inhibited neurite outgrowth. The same antibody did not inhibit neurite outgrowth on polylysine or Müller cells. Antibodies to NCAM, L1, and N-cadherin did not significantly inhibit neurite outgrowth on laminin but produced significant inhibition on Müller cells. The inhibition of neurite outgrowth on glia by anti-L1 antibodies supports the hypothesis that L1 is capable of acting in a heterophilic binding mechanism. On laminin, both anti-N-cadherin and anti-L1 caused defasciculation of neurites from retinal ganglion cells, while anti-NCAM did not. None of these antibodies produced defasciculation on Müller cells. The results indicate that these three cell adhesion molecules may be very important in interactions with glia as axons grow from the retina to the tectum and may be less important in axon-axon interactions along this pathway. No evidence was found supporting the role of integrins in axon growth on Müller cells.