Here, we present mechanisms for the inhibition of oligodendendrocyte precursor cell (OPC) differentiation, a biological function of neural extracellular matrix (ECM). The differentiation of oligodendrocytes is orchestrated by a complex set of stimuli. In the present study, we investigated the signaling pathway elicited by the ECM glycoprotein tenascin C (Tnc). Tnc substrates inhibit myelin basic protein (MBP) expression of cultured rat oligodendrocytes, and, conversely, we found that the emergence of MBP expression is accelerated in forebrains of Tnc-deficient mice. Mechanistically, Tnc interfered with phosphorylation of Akt, which in turn reduced MBP expression. At the cell surface, Tnc associates with lipid rafts in oligodendrocyte membranes, together with the cell adhesion molecule contactin (Cntn1) and the Src family kinase (SFK) Fyn. Depletion of Cntn1 in OPCs by small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) abolished the Tnc-dependent inhibition of oligodendrocyte differentiation, while Tnc exposure impeded the activation of the tyrosine kinase Fyn by Cntn1. Concomitant with oligodendrocyte differentiation, Tnc antagonized the expression of the signaling adaptor and RNA-binding molecule Sam68. siRNA-mediated knockdown or overexpression of Sam68 delayed or accelerated oligodendrocyte differentiation, respectively. Inhibition of oligodendrocyte differentiation with the SFK inhibitor PP2 could be rescued by Sam68 overexpression, which may indicate a regulatory role for Sam68 downstream of Fyn. Our study therefore uncovers the first signaling pathways that underlie Tnc-induced, ECM-dependent maintenance of the immature state of OPCs.