The neural cell adhesion molecule L1 is a multidomain protein that plays important roles in cell adhesion, migration, and neurite outgrowth. To analyze structure-function relationships of L1 in neurite outgrowth and cell body adhesion, we have expressed and purified a set of different fragments of the extracellular part of this glycoprotein in CHO cells and in Escherichia coli. When neurite outgrowth from small cerebellar neurons was measured on substrate-coated L1 or L1 fragments, neurite outgrowth was promoted by the immunoglobulin-like domains I-II, III-IV, and V-VI, and by the fibronectin type III homologous repeats 1– 2, while the fibronectin type III homologous repeats 3–5 were ineffective. In contrast, cell bodies of small cerebellar neurons adhered mostly to the immunoglobulin-like domains I-II and V-VI, and to the fibronectin type III homologous repeats 3–5, but less to the immunoglobulin-like domains III-IV and fibronectin type III homologous repeats 1–2. In both assays, the neuronal cell surface receptor for all active protein fragments was identified as L1. No significant differences in functional activities were found between fragments with and without carbohydrate structures. These findings indicate that L1 uses several domains for homophilic interactions overlapping for the two functions analyzed here, but also showing some regional specialization. Furthermore, we show that a homophilic molecule uses several domains in one function, with neurite outgrowth requiring more domains than adhesion for maximal activity.