Nr-CAM is a member of the L1 subfamily of cell adhesion molecules (CAMs) that belong to the immunoglobulin superfamily. To explore the role of Nr-CAM in the developing nervous system, we prepared specific antibodies against both chick and mouse Nr-CAM using recombinant Fc fusion proteins of chick Nr-CAM and mouse Nr-CAM, respectively. First, we show the specificity of the new anti-chick Nr-CAM antibody compared with a previously employed antibody using the expression patterns of Nr-CAM in the chick spinal cord and floor plate and on commissural axons, where Nr-CAM has been implicated in axon guidance. Using the anti-mouse Nr-CAM antibody, we then studied the expression patterns of Nr-CAM in the developing mouse nervous system along with the patterns of two related CAMs, L1, which labels most growing axons, and TAG-1, which binds to Nr-CAM and has a more restricted distribution. Major sites that are positive for Nr-CAM are specialized glial formations in the ventral midline, including the floor plate in the spinal cord, the hindbrain and midbrain, the optic chiasm, and the median eminence in the forebrain. Similar to what is seen in the chick spinal cord, Nr-CAM is expressed on crossing fibers as they course through these areas. In addition, Nr-CAM is found in crossing fiber pathways, including the anterior commissure, corpus callosum, and posterior commissure, and in nondecussating pathways, such as the lateral olfactory tract and the habenulointerpeduncular tract. Nr-CAM, for the most part, is colocalized with TAG-1 in all of these systems. Based on in vitro studies indicating that the Nr-CAM-axonin-1/TAG-1 interaction is involved in peripheral axonal growth and guidance in the spinal cord [Lustig et al. (1999) Dev Biol 209:340–351; Fitzli et al. (2000) J Cell Biol 149:951–968], the expression patterns described herein implicate a role for this interaction in central nervous system axon growth and guidance, especially at points of decussation. Nr-CAM also is expressed in cortical regions, such as the olfactory bulb. In the hippocampus, however, TAG-1-positive areas are segregated from Nr-CAM-positive areas, suggesting that, in neuropilar regions, Nr-CAM interacts with molecules other than TAG-1. J. Comp. Neurol. 434:13–28, 2001. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.