Teleost retinas grow throughout life by proliferation of neuroblasts at the retinal margin and dedicated rod precursors in the outer nuclear layer. Mechanisms regulating this proliferation are largely unknown. Previous investigators observed that rod precursor replication, as detected by incorporation of radioactive thymidine into cells of the outer nuclear layer, is enhanced after optic nerve crush. We attempted to determine whether this was due to severing of the retinopetal (nervus terminalis, n.t.) or retinofugal (retinal ganglion cell) axons in the optic nerve of the goldfish, Carassius auratus. In the first series of experiments, we ablated unilaterally the optic nerve, olfactory bulb (containing n.t. ganglia), or optic tectum (containing retinal ganglion cell axons and n.t. collaterals). Rod precursor proliferation increased dramatically in both retinas as soon as 5 days after surgery; in addition, the numbers of dividing cells were greater in the ipsilateral retina 10-15 days after optic nerve crush or tectal ablation and in the contralateral retina 20-25 days after olfactory bulb ablation. These observations are not accounted for by the known projections of retinal ganglion cells, but are consistent with the projections of the n.t. In the second series of experiments, n.t. projections to the brain and retina were severed bilaterally 7-8 weeks before the unilateral optic nerve crush or hemitectal ablation. Rod precursor proliferation increased as before, but the quantities of dividing cells were always equal in both retinas. We conclude that the n.t. may modulate rod proliferation locally and that injury to (some) brain regions may cause release of mitogens that affect rod precursors in both retinas.