We have identified glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH) as a binding partner for the cell adhesion molecule L1. GAPDH binds to sites within the extracellular domain of L1, namely the immunoglobulin-like domains I-VI and the fibronectin type III homologous repeats 4-5. Extracellular GAPDH was detected at the cell surface of neuronal cells by surface biotinylation and immunocytochemistry. Addition of GAPDH antibodies to cultured cerebellar neurons inhibited L1-dependent neurite outgrowth in the presence of ATP, while the application of exogenous GAPDH promoted L1-dependent neurite outgrowth. Pre-treatment of substrate-coated L1-Fc with ATP and GAPDH, which phosphorylates L1, subsequently led to an enhanced neurite outgrowth. Furthermore, aggregation of L1-Fc carrying beads was enhanced in the presence of both GAPDH and ATP. L1-dependent neurite outgrowth and aggregation of L1 were diminished in the presence of alkaline phosphatase or a protein kinase inhibitor. Our results show that GAPDH-dependent phosphorylation of L1 is a novel mechanism in regulating L1-mediated neurite outgrowth.