Drosophila ELAV is the founding member of an evolutionarily conserved family of RNA-binding proteins considered as key inducers of neuronal differentiation. Although several ELAV-specific targets have been identified, little is known about the role of elav during neural development. Here, we report a detailed characterization of the elav mutant commissural phenotype. The reduced number of commissures in elav mutant embryos is not due to loss or misspecification of neural cells but results from defects in commissural axon projections across the midline. We establish a causal relationship between the elav mutant commissural phenotype and a reduction in the expression of commissureless, a key component of the Robo/Slit growth cone repulsive signalling pathway. In the nerve cord of elav mutant embryos, comm mRNA expression is strongly reduced in neurons, but not in midline glial cells. Furthermore, specific expression of an elav transgene in posterior neurons of each segment of an elav mutant nerve cord restores comm mRNA expression in these cells, as well as the formation of posterior commissures. Finally, forced expression of comm in specific commissural neuron subsets rescues the midline crossing defects of these neurons in elav mutant embryos, further indicating that elav acts cell autonomously on comm expression.