Besides adhesive roles in cell cell interaction, L1 functions as a signal transducing receptor providing neurons with cues from their environment for axonal growth and guidance. L1 associates with beta1 integrins on the cell surface to induce a signaling pathway involving sequential activation of pp60csrc, Vav2 -GEF, Rac1, PAK1, MEK and ERK1/2. L1 stimulates cell migration and neurite outgrowth through the MAP kinases ERK1/2. CHL1 also associates with integrins and activates a MAPK signaling pathway via pp60c-src, MEK and ERK1/2.
L1 also binds the Sema3A receptor neuropilin1 and acts as an obligate coreceptor to mediate Sema3A induced growth cone collapse and axon repulsion. This repulsion can be converted to attraction by homophilic binding of L1 on an apposing cell in trans with L1 complexed with Neuropilin1 (NP1) in the responding neuron.
L1 also interacts with FGF receptor and activates PLC gamma and DAG, resulting in the production of arachidonic acid and subsequent opening of voltage-gated channels.