We provide the first data that cathepsin B (Cath B), a lysosomal cysteine protease, is up-regulated following contusion-spinal cord injury (SCI). Following T12 laminectomy and moderate contusion, Cath B mRNA and protein expression profiles were examined from 2 to 168 h post-injury in rats using real-time PCR and immunoblots, respectively. Contusion injury significantly increased [mRNA]Cath B in the injury site and adjacent segments over sham injury levels. While the largest [mRNA]Cath B induction (20-fold over naive) was seen in the injury site, the caudal segment routinely yielded [mRNA]Cath B levels greater than 10-fold over naive. Interestingly, sham injury animals also experienced mRNA induction at several time points at the injury site and in segments rostral and caudal to the injury site. Contusion injury also significantly elevated levels of Cath B proenzyme protein (37 kDa) over sham injury in the injury site (48, 72 and 168 h post-injury). Furthermore, significant protein increases of single and double chain Cath B (both active forms) occurred at the injury site at 72 and 168 h post-injury. Similar significant increases in Cath B protein levels were seen in areas adjacent to the injury site. The induction of Cath B mRNA and protein expression following contusion injury is previously undescribed and suggests that Cath B may potentially be involved in the secondary injury cascade, perhaps for as long as 1 week post-injury.