Stimulus-linked RNA and protein synthesis is required for establishment of long-term neuroplasticity. To identify molecular mechanisms underlying long-term neuroplasticity, we have used differential cDNA techniques to clone a novel immediate-early gene (IEG) that is rapidly induced in neurons of the hippocampus and cortex by physiological synaptic activity. Analysis of the deduced amino acid sequence indicates homology to members of the pentraxin family of secreted lectins that include C-reactive protein and serum amyloid P component. Regions of homology include an 8 amino acid “pentraxin signature” sequence and a characteristic pentraxin calcium-binding domain. We have termed this gene and the encoded protein Narp (from neuronal activity- regulated pentraxin). Biochemical analyses confirm the presence of a functional signal sequence, and Narp is secreted by transfected COS-1 cells in culture. Additionally, Narp binds to agar matrix in a calcium- dependent manner consistent with the lectin properties of the pentraxin family. When cocultured with Narp-secreting COS-1 cells, neurons of cortical explants exhibit enhanced growth of neuronal dendritic processes. Neurite outgrowth-promoting activity is also observed using partially purified Narp and can be specifically immunodepleted, demonstrating that Narp is the active principle. Narp is fully active at a concentration of approximately 40 ng/ml, indicating a potency similar to known peptide growth factors. Because Narp is rapidly regulated by neuronal activity, its lectin and growth-promoting activities are likely to play role in the modification of cellular properties that underlie long-term plasticity.