The ontogeny of photic responsiveness in the retina and the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of C57BL/6J mouse was studied using the enhanced expression of the immediate early gene c-fos as a marker of neuronal activation. c-fos expression was assessed by immunocytochemical localisation of its protein product. Light induction of Fos-like protein in the retina and SCN occurred first at postnatal day four (PD 4). At this stage of development, some cells in the inner part of the neuroblastic layer and in the ganglion cell layer showed positive immunoreaction; the number of Fos-like positive cells increased with age until it reached adult levels by PD 15. Induction of Fos-like expression at PD 4 in the SCN mainly occurred in the ventrolateral region, the region that receives the greatest density of retinal innervation. These results indicate that retinal input can activate cells in the SCN even before eyelids open, and the SCN can be stimulated by photic inputs as early as day 4 after birth.