Motor axons in the trunk of the developing zebrafish exit from the ventral spinal cord in one ventral root per hemisegment and grow on a common path toward the region of the horizontal myoseptum, where they select their specific pathways. Tenascin-C, a component of the extracellular matrix, is concentrated in this choice region. Adaxial cells and other myotomal cells express tenascin-C mRNA, suggesting that these cells are the source of tenascin-C protein. Overexpressing an axon repellent fragment containing the cysteine-rich region and the epidermal growth factor-like repeats of tenascin-C led to retarded growth of ventral motor nerves between their spinal exit point and the horizontal myoseptum. Injection of a protein fragment containing the same part of tenascin-C also induced slower growth of motor nerves. Conversely, knock down of tenascin-C protein resulted in abnormal lateral branching of ventral motor nerves. In the zebrafish unplugged mutant, in which axons display pathfinding defects in the region of the horizontal myoseptum, tenascin-C immunoreactivity was not detectable in this region, indicating an abnormal extracellular matrix in unplugged. We conclude that tenascin-C is part of a specialized extracellular matrix in the region of the horizontal myoseptum that influences the growth of motor axons.