Autologous peripheral nerves were transplanted onto transected optic nerves of adult mice. We examined whether intraocular CNTF injections increased retinal ganglion cell (RGC) axon regeneration, and what types of RGCs regrew axons into grafts. After temporal CNTF eye injections there were more fluorogold-labelled regenerating RGCs (mean +/- s.e.m. 342+/-113.1; n=6) than in sham eye-injected mice (133+/-27.6; n=8). Greater numbers of regenerating RGCs (1198+/-367.6; n=6) were seen in mice receiving both nasal and temporal CNTF injections. The range of soma areas in regenerate and normal retinas was similar but the average size of regenerating RGCs was greater (212 microm2 vs 111 microm2). Most regenerating RGCs had large dendritic fields. The data suggest a heterogeneous response to axotomy in adult mice, large RGCs preferentially regrowing axons into PN grafts.