We have determined the crystal structure of the ligand binding fragment of the neural cell adhesion molecule axonin-1/TAG-1 comprising the first four immunoglobulin (Ig) domains. The overall structure of axonin-1(Ig1-4) is U-shaped due to contacts between domains 1 and 4 and domains 2 and 3. In the crystals, these molecules are aligned in a string with adjacent molecules oriented in an anti-parallel fashion and their C termini perpendicular to the string. This arrangement suggests that cell adhesion by homophilic axonin-1 interaction occurs by the formation of a linear zipper-like array in which the axonin-1 molecules are alternately provided by the two apposed membranes. In accordance with this model, mutations in a loop critical for the formation of the zipper resulted in the loss of the homophilic binding capacity of axonin-1.