Growing neurites are guided through their environment during development and regeneration via different cellular and extracellular matrix (ECM) molecular cues. To mimic cell-matrix interactions, a three-dimensional (3D) hydrogel-based ECM equivalent containing a covalently immobilized laminin oligopeptide sequence was designed to facilitate nerve regeneration. This study illustrates that the oligopeptide domain CDPGYIGSR covalently linked to an agarose gel as a bioartificial 3D substrate successfully supports neurite outgrowth from dorsal root ganglia (DRG) in vitro. The specificity of the neurite promoting activity was illustrated through the inhibition of neurite outgrowth from DRG in a CDPGYIGSR-derivatized gel in the presence of solubilized CDPGYIGSR peptide. Gels derivatized with CDPGYIGSK and CDPGRGSYI peptides stimulated a smaller increase of neurite outgrowth. In vivo experiments revealed the capability of a CDPGYIGSR-derivatized gel to enhance nerve regeneration in a transected rat dorsal root model compared to an underivatized gel, a CDPGRGSYI gel, and saline-filled nerve guidance channels. These data suggest the feasibility of a 3D hydrogel-based ECM equivalent capable of enhancing neurite outgrowth in vitro and in vivo.