Neuronal cells expressing neural cell adhesion molecule (N-CAM) accumulate the largest N-CAM component (N-CAM 180) at cell — cell contact sites. To test whether this accumulation is induced by interactions at the surface membrane, latex beads coated with several purified adhesion molecules or extracellular matrix (ECM) components were co-cultured with neuroblastoma cells. Beads coated with L1, N-CAM, the L2/HNK-1 carbohydrate epitope-carrying molecules from adult mouse brain or laminin from Engelbreth-Holm-Swarm (EHS) sarcoma did not induce an accumulation of N-CAM 180 or L1 at sites of contact suggesting that these molecules are not directly involved in N-CAM 180 accumulation or that their mobility is required for this process. Beads coated with ECM components of the PF-HR9 cell line induced accumulation of N-CAM 180 at sites of contact with neuroblastoma cells. Accumulation was seen at cell bodies of undifferentiated and differentiated neuroblastoma cells, as well as on neurites and growth cones of differentiated neuroblastoma cells. Accumulation of the neural adhesion molecule L1 was also seen, but less prominently and reproducibly. These observations suggest that molecules of the ECM can directly or indirectly, e.g. via molecules linked to N-CAM 180 on the cell surface, induce accumulation of N-CAM 180.