Autoantibodies against recoverin are found in the sera of patients with cancer-associated retinopathy syndrome, a paraneoplastic disease associated with retinal degeneration. We have previously shown that anti-recoverin autoantibodies induced photoreceptor apoptotic cell death after injection into the vitreous of Lewis rats. Ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) has been shown to promote the survival of a number of neuronal cell types, including photoreceptors. In this study, we examined whether an adeno-associated virus (AAV)-mediated delivery of gene encoding the human CNTF protected photoreceptor cells from anti-recoverin antibody-induced death. One month after subretinal injection of the AAV-CNTF gene into one eye and a control vector into the other eye, an anti-recoverin antibody was injected to induce retinal cell death in Lewis rats. Subretinal administration of the virus led to an efficient transduction of photoreceptors, as indicated by immunostaining of retinas with anti-CNTF. Histological examination of the corresponding retinas showed that photoreceptor cells were significantly protected from apoptotic death in the CNTF-treated eyes. CNTF treatment of the retinas resulted in a time-dependent activation of STAT 3. The present study shows that an AAV-mediated delivery of CNTF may protect photoreceptors from antibody-induced cell death through the activation of STAT3 and the suppression of caspase 3 activity, a key caspase leading to apoptosis. Thus, CNTF may be a useful treatment for human antibody-mediated retinal degeneration.