By homologous recombination, a first-generation adenovirus-based gene transfer vector, AdCMVax-1, was constructed as a means of manipulating the expression level of the axonal cell adhesion molecule axonin-1 in neurons and glial cells. AdCMVax-1 harbours the entire coding region of the chicken axonin-1 cDNA under the transcriptional control of the Cytomegalovirus enhancer/promoter in the early-region 1 of the viral genome. Characterization of AdCMVax-1 in vitro revealed highly efficient gene transfer and expression of recombinant axonin-1 in neurons and glial cells of dissociated rat dorsal root ganglia. Similar to its native counterpart, virus-derived axonin-1 was detected on the cell body, neurites, and growth cones of transduced neurons, occurred in a secreted and membrane-associated form, and could be cleaved from the membrane with phosphatidylinositol-specific phospholipase C. Functional characterization of recombinant axonin-1 revealed the same binding properties as previously reported for native axonin-1 isolated from the vitreous fluid of chicken embryos. In vivo gene transfer was studied by stereotactic injection of AdCMVax-1 in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus and the facial nucleus in the brainstem of adult Wistar rats and revealed high level expression of recombinant axonin-1 in a subset of hippocampal neurons and motor neurons in the facial nucleus.