The scarring process occurring after adult central nervous system injury and the subsequent increase in the expression of certain extracellular matrix molecules are known to contribute to the failure of axon regeneration. This study provides an immunohistochemical analysis of temporal changes (8 days to 1 year) in the cellular and molecular response of the Swiss mouse spinal cord to a dorsal hemisection and its correlation with the axonal growth properties of a descending pathway, the serotoninergic axons. In this lesion model, no cavity forms at the centre of the lesion. Instead, a dense fibronectin-positive tissue matrix occupies the centre of the lesion, surrounded by a glial scar mainly constituted by reactive astrocytes. NG2 proteoglycan and tenascin-C, potential axon growth inhibitors, are constantly associated with the central region. In the glial scar, tenascin-C is never observed and the expression of chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans (revealed with CS-56 and anti-NG2 antibodies) highly increases in the week following injury to progressively return to their control level. In parallel, there is an increasing expression of the polysialilated neural cell adhesion molecule by reactive astrocytes. These molecular changes are correlated with a sprouting process of serotoninergic axons in the glial scar, except in a small area in contact with the central region. All these observations suggest that while a part of the glial scar progressively becomes permissive to axon regeneration after mouse spinal cord injury, the border of the glial scar, in contact with the fibronectin-positive tissue matrix, is the real barrier to prevent axon regeneration.