The Neural Cell Adhesion Molecule (NCAM) is a founder member of a large family of cell surface glycoproteins that share structural motifs related to immunoglobulin and fibronectin type III (FN III) domains [Walsh and Doherty (1991) (Fig. 1). These glycoproteins have been grouped based on the respective number of each type of domain. In vertebrates members of this family of glycoproteins include L1/NILE, NgCAM, axonin-1/TAG-1, and Thy-1 as well as NCAM. In addition structural homologs of NCAM and L1 have been identified in Drosophila and Grasshoppers [Walsh and Doherty (1991)]. These insect homologs are called fasciclins and a series of mutants corresponding to these aspects of synaptic plasticity [Mayford et al. (1992) Science 256:638-644]. In vertebrates all of these glycoproteins are expressed in the developing nervous system where they have been identified as candidate molecules for mediating axon outgrowth, fasciculation, regeneration, and target recognition. In addition, NCAM is expressed in a number of different tissues and cell types. For example, NCAM is expressed in a dynamic pattern in developing and regenerating adult muscle. In this review we aim to describe important aspects of the role of these CAMS in development of the nervous system, including the neuromuscular junction. Furthermore, we will explore the prospective use of molecular biology, cell biology, and molecular genetic techniques, such as transgenic mice, to understand the role and molecular action of this family of cell adhesion molecules in vivo.