We have analysed the axonal sorting signals of amyloid precursor protein (APP). Wild-type and mutant versions of human APP were expressed in hippocampal neurons using the Semliki forest virus system. We show that wild-type APP and mutations implicated in Alzheimer's disease and another brain beta-amyloidosis are sorted to the axon. By analysis of deletion mutants we found that the membrane-inserted APP ectodomain but not the cytoplasmic tail is required for axonal sorting. Systematic deletions of the APP ectodomain identified two regions required for axonal delivery: one encoded by exons 11-15 in the carbohydrate domain, the other encoded by exons 16-17 in the juxtamembraneous beta-amyloid domain. Treatment of the cells with the N-glycosylation inhibitor tunicamycin induced missorting of wild-type APP, supporting the importance of glycosylation in axonal sorting of APP. The data revealed a hierarchy of sorting signals on APP: the beta-amyloid-dependent membrane proximal signal was the major contributor to axonal sorting, while N-glycosylation had a weaker effect. Furthermore, recessive somatodendritic signals, most likely in the cytoplasmic tail, directed the protein to the dendrites when the ectodomain was deleted. Analysis of detergent solubility of APP and another axonally delivered protein, hemagglutinin, demonstrated that only hemagglutinin formed CHAPS-insoluble complexes, suggesting distinct mechanisms of axonal sorting for these two proteins. This study is the first delineation of sorting requirements of an axonally targeted protein in polarized neurons and indicates that the beta-amyloid domain plays a major role in axonal delivery of APP.