We have previously reported that basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) can induce retinal regeneration in the stage 22-24 chicken embryo. The present study was undertaken to identify the cellular source of the regenerate and to determine whether other growth factors also elicit regeneration in this animal model. Polymer implants containing bFGF were inserted into eyes of chicken embryos immediately after extirpation of the neural retina. The retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) was left intact. Evaluation by light microscopy revealed that in bFGF-treated eyes the new neural retina arose by transdifferentiation of the entire RPE layer. Differentiation of the new neural retina occurred in a sequence similar to that of normal development but proceeded in a reverse (vitread) direction. All retinal laminae had differentiated by Day 15. However, the regenerate displayed reversed polarity, with photoreceptors closest to the lens. The RPE, pecten, and optic nerve were absent. Focal areas of degeneration in the retinal regenerate became evident for the first time on Day 10. Retinal regeneration was also observed after treatment with higher doses of acidic fibroblast growth factor, but not with nerve growth factor-beta, transforming growth factor-beta 1, insulin, or insulin-like growth factors I or II. These results raise the possibility that FGFs may play a role in retinal differentiation during development.