A novel neural surface protein, Bravo, shows a pattern of topological restriction in the embryonic chick retinotectal system. Bravo is present on the developing optic fibers in the retina; however, retinal axons in the tectum do not display Bravo. The appearance of Bravo in vitro is modulated by environmental cues. Axons growing out from retinal explants on retinal basal lamina, their natural substrate, express Bravo, whereas such axons growing on collagen do not. Retinal explants provide a valuable system to characterize the mechanism of Bravo restriction, as well as the cellular signals controlling it. Bravo was identified with monoclonal antibodies from a collection generated against exposed molecules isolated by using a selective cell surface biotinylation procedure. The NH2-terminal sequence of Bravo shows similarity with L1, a neural surface molecule which is a member of the immunoglobulin superfamily. This possible relationship to L1, together with its restricted appearance, suggests an involvement of Bravo in axonal growth and guidance.