Glycoproteins that inhibit neurite outgrowth may guide growth cones during development by acting as a barrier and closing off inappropriate routes. Their continued expression in the adult central nervous system may be a key factor in preventing regeneration of central nervous system neurons. A glycoprotein of 55 kDa has been isolated from the detergent-insoluble membrane skeleton from adult chicken brain. Initial experiments showed that dorsal root ganglion neurons would not adhere to or extend neurites on a substratum coated with GP55. Furthermore, GP55 will act as a barrier to the advance of established growth cones in the presence of poly-L-lysine, laminin or G4. Central nervous system neurons from forebrain as well as dorsal root ganglion neurons from the peripheral nervous system are inhibited by GP55. GP55 is also effective in blocking the initial adhesion of neurons to a substratum of poly-L-lysine and, particularly, laminin. In contrast to the inhibition of neurite outgrowth, neuronal adhesion is concentration independent over the range tested. A preliminary investigation of the mechanism by which GP55 inhibits outgrowth suggests that a pertussis toxin-sensitive G protein is required. Preliminary evidence suggests that GP55 is anchored in the membrane by a glycosyl phosphatidylinositol moiety. GP55 is distinct from previously identified inhibitory proteins, based on the source and molecular mass, and is thus a new member of this rapidly expanding family.