E587 is a new monoclonal antibody against a 200 kDa cell-surface glycoprotein in the fish retinotectal pathway. The E587 antigen probably belongs to the class of cell adhesion molecules, and more specifically, to the family of L1-like molecules. The immunopurified protein is recognized by the antibody against the HNK1/L2 sugar epitope (associated with most cell adhesion molecules) and by a polyclonal antiserum against chick G4, which is related to the cell adhesion molecule L1 in mouse. Moreover the NH2-terminal sequence of E587 shows similarity with L1 and Ng-CAM. The E587 immunostaining pattern in the fish retinotectal pathway suggests that the E587 antigen is a growth- associated molecule on fish retinal axons. In fish embryos, all retinal axons are labeled. In adult fish, however, only the young axons from newly added ganglion cells carry E587 staining. After optic nerve transection (ONS) and retinal axonal regeneration, all axons reexpress the E587 antigen into their terminal processes in the tectal retinorecipient layers. The reexpression of the E587 antigen is temporally regulated, and E587 immunoreactivity declines by 7 months and disappears at 12 months after ONS. We hypothesize that the E587 antigen may mediate axon-axon associations. In its restricted appearance on young axons in normal adult fish, it may contribute to the selective fasciculation of the newest axons with young axons and thus participate in the creation of the age-related fiber organization in the fish optic nerve.