Recognition molecules that carry carbohydrate structures regulate cell interactions during development and play important roles in synaptic plasticity and regeneration in the adult. Glycans appear to be involved in these interactions. We have searched for binding proteins for oligomannosidic structures using the L3 antibody directed against high mannose-type glycans in an anti-idiotypic approach. A selected monoclonal anti-idiotype antibody was used for affinity chromatography and identified basigin as a binding protein from mouse brain detergent lysates. Basigin was found to bind to high mannose-carrying cell recognition molecules, such as myelin-associated glycoprotein, L1, the beta2-subunit of Na+/K+-ATPase and an oligomannosidic neoglycolipid. Furthermore, basigin was involved in outgrowth of astrocytic processes in vitro. A striking homology between the first immunoglobulin (Ig)-like domain of basigin and the fourth Ig-like domain of NCAM, previously shown to bind to oligomannosidic glycans, and the lectin domain of the mannose receptor confirms that basigin is an oligomannose binding lectin. To our knowledge this is the first report that anti-idiotypic antibodies can be used to identify binding partners for carbohydrates.