We have identified a close homologue of L1 (CHL1) in the mouse. CHL1 comprises an N-terminal signal sequence, six immunoglobulin (Ig)-like domains, 4.5 fibronectin type III (FN)-like repeats, a transmembrane domain and a C-terminal, most likely intracellular domain of ˜100 amino acids. CHL1 is most similar in its extracellular domain to chicken Ng-CAM (˜40% amino acid identity), followed by mouse L1, chicken neurofascin, chicken Nr-CAM, Drosophila neuroglian and zebrafish L1.l (37-28% amino acid identity), and mouse F3, rat TAG-1 and rat BIG-1 (˜27% amino acid identity). The similarity with other members of the Ig superfamily [e.g. neural cell adhesion molecule (N-CAM), DCC, HLAR, rse] is 16-11%. The intracellular domain is most similar to mouse and chicken Nr-CAM, mouse and rat neurofascin (˜60% amino acid identity) followed by chicken neurofascin and Ng-CAM, Drosophila neuroglian and zebrafish L1.l and L1.2 (˜40% amino acid identity). Besides the high overall homology and conserved modular structure among previously recognized members of the L1 family (mouse/human L1/rat NILE; chicken Ng-CAM; chicken/mouse Nr-CAM; Drosphila neuroglian; zebrafish L1.l and L1.2; chicken/mouse neurofascin/rat ankyrin-binding glycoprotein), criteria characteristic of L1 were identified with regard to the number of amino acids between positions of conserved amino acid residues defining distances within and between two adjacent Ig-like domains and FN-like repeats. These show a collinearity in the six Ig-like domains and four adjacent FN-like repeats that is remarkably conserved between L1 and molecules containing these modules (designated the L1 family cassette), including the GPI-linked forms of the F3 subgroup (mouse F3/chicken F1l/human CNTN1; rat BIG-l/mouse PANG; rat TAG-l/mouse TAX-l/chicken axonin-1). The colorectal cancer molecule (DCC), previously introduced as an N-CAM-like molecule, conforms to the L1 family cassette. Other structural features of CHL l shared between members of the L1 family are a high degree of N-glycosidically linked carbohydrates (˜20% of its molecular mass), which include the HNK-1 carbohydrate structure, and a pattern of protein fragments comprising a major 185 kDa band and smaller fragments of 165 and 125 kDa. As for the other L1 family members, predominant expression of CHL l is observed in the nervous system and at later developmental stages. In the central nervous system CHL l is expressed by neurons, but, in contrast to L1, also by glial cells. Our findings suggest a common ancestral L1-like molecule which evolved via gene duplication to generate a diversity of structurally and functionally distinct yet similar molecules.