Cytotactin is an extracellular glycoprotein found in a highly specialized distribution during embryonic development. In the brain, it is synthesized by glia, not neurons. It is involved in neuron-glia adhesion in vitro and affects neuronal migration in the developing cerebellum. In an attempt to extend these observations to the peripheral nervous system, we have examined the distribution and localization of cytotactin in different parts of the normal and regenerating neuromuscular system. In the normal neuromuscular system, cytotactin accumulated at critical sites of cell-cell interactions, specifically at the neuromuscular junction and the myotendinous junction, as well at the node of Ranvier (Rieger, F., J. K. Daniloff, M. Pinçon-Raymond, K. L. Crossin, M. Grumet, and G. M. Edelman. 1986. J. Cell Biol. 103:379-391). At the neuromuscular junction, cytotactin was located in terminal nonmyelinating Schwann cells. Cytotactin was also detected near the insertion points of the muscle fibers to tendinous structures in both the proximal and distal endomysial regions of the myotendinous junctions. This was in striking contrast to staining for the neural cell adhesion molecule, N-CAM, which was accumulated near the extreme ends of the muscle fiber. Peripheral nerve damage resulted in modulation of expression of cytotactin in both nerve and muscle, particularly among the interacting tissues during regeneration and reinnervation. In denervated muscle, cytotactin accumulated in interstitial spaces and near the previous synaptic sites. Cytotactin levels were elevated and remained high along the endoneurial tubes and in the perineurium as long as muscle remained denervated. Reinnervation led to a return to normal levels of cytotactin both in inner surfaces of the nerve fascicles and in the perineurium. In dorsal root ganglia, the processes surrounding ganglionic neurons became intensely stained by anticytotactin antibodies after the nerve was cut, and returned to normal by 30 d after injury. These data suggest that local signals between neurons, glia, and supporting cells may regulate cytotactin expression in the neuromuscular system in a fashion coordinate with other cell adhesion molecules. Moreover, innervation may regulate the relative amount and distribution of cytotactin both in muscle and in Schwann cells.