Following transection of the optic nerve (ON), retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) upregulate Bax protein expression and undergo apoptosis. The present study aimed at reducing Bax expression in order to test whether Bax plays a causative role in the induction of secondary RGC apoptosis. Following injection into the vitreous, fluoresceinated oligonucleotides transfected RGCs in vivo at the injection site in the temporal superior retina. Following ON lesion, and repeated injections of a partially phosphorothioated Bax antisense oligonucleotide, but not following injection of control oligonucleotides, expression of Bax protein was locally inhibited, and the number of surviving RGCs was increased in Bax antisense treated rats 8 days after axotomy. Our results indicate that Bax induction is a prerequisite for the execution of RGC apoptosis following ON axotomy. While the Bax antisense strategy offers an exciting perspective to inhibit secondary neuronal degeneration in vivo, both limited transfection efficacy, and the temporal restriction of this effect currently limit the use of this approach with respect to clinical applications for the treatment of neurodegeneration.