A scaffold of axons consisting of a pair of longitudinal tracts and several commissures is established during early development of the vertebrate brain. We report here that NOC-2, a cell surface carbohydrate, is selectively expressed by a subpopulation of growing axons in this scaffold in Xenopus. NOC-2 is present on two glycoproteins, one of which is a novel glycoform of the neural cell adhesion molecule N-CAM. When the function of NOC-2 was perturbed using either soluble carbohydrates or anti-NOC-2 antibodies, axons expressing NOC-2 exhibited aberrant growth at specific points in their pathway. NOC-2 is the first-identified axon guidance molecule essential for development of the axon scaffold in the embryonic vertebrate brain.