The neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM), probably the best characterized and most abundant cell adhesion molecule on neurons, is thought to be a major regulator of axonal growth and pathfinding. Here we present a detailed analysis of these processes in mice deficient for all NCAM isoforms, generated by gene targeting. The hippocampal mossy fiber tract shows prominent expression of polysialylated NCAM and the generation of new axonal projections throughout life. Focusing on this important intrahippocampal connection, we demonstrate that in the absence of NCAM, fasciculation and pathfinding of these axons are strongly affected. In addition we show alterations in the distribution of mossy fiber terminals. The phenotype is more severe in adult than in young animals, suggesting an essential role for NCAM in the maintenance of plasticity in the mature nervous system.