Topographic maps with a defined spatial ordering of neuronal connections are a key feature of brain organization. Such maps are believed to develop in response to complementary position-specific labels in presynaptic and postsynaptic fields. However, the complementary labeling molecules are not known. In the well-studied visual map of retinal axons projecting to the tectum, the labels are hypothesized to be in gradients, without needing large numbers of cell-specific molecules. We recently cloned ELF-1 as a ligand for Eph family receptors. Here, RNA hybridization shows matching expression gradients for ELF-1 in the tectum and its receptor Mek4 in the retina. Binding activity detected with alkaline phosphatase fusions of ELF-1 and Mek4 also reveals gradients and provides direct evidence for molecular complementarity of gradients in reciprocal fields. ELF-1 and Mek4 may therefore play roles in retinotectal development and have properties predicted of topographic mapping labels.