We have developed an in vitro assay which measures the ability of growth cones to extend on an axonal substrate. Neurite lengths were compared in the presence or absence of monovalent antibodies against specific neural cell surface glycoproteins. Fab fragments of antibodies against the neural cell adhesion molecule, NCAM, have an insignificant effect on the lengths of neurites elongating on either an axonal substrate or a laminin substrate. Fab fragments of polyclonal antibodies against two new neural cell surface antigens, defined by mAb G4 and mAb F11, decrease the lengths of neurites elongating on an axonal substrate, but have no effect on the lengths of neurites elongating on a laminin substrate. G4 antigen is related to mouse L1, while F11 antigen appears to be distinct from all known neural cell surface glycoproteins. Our results suggest that the G4 and F11 antigens help to promote the extension of growth cones on axons.

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