Cellular proliferation after retinal detachment was studied by 3H-thymidine light microscopic autoradiography in cats that had experimental detachments of 0.5-180 days duration. The animals underwent labeling 2 hr before death with an intraocular injection of 200 microCi of 3H-thymidine. The number of labeled nuclei were counted in 1-micron thick tissue sections in regions of detachment, in regions of the experimental eyes that remained attached, and in control eyes that had no detachments. In the normal eye, in one that had only the lens and vitreous removed, and in the eyes with 0.5- and 1-day detachments, the number of labeled nuclei ranged from 0/mm (0.5-day detachment) to 0.38/mm (lens and vitreous removed only). By 2 days postdetachment, the number of labeled nuclei increased to 2.09/mm. The highest levels of labeling occurred in two animals with detachments of 3 (7.86/mm) and 4 (7.09/mm) days. Thereafter, the numbers declined steadily until near-baseline counts were obtained at 14 days. The number of labeled nuclei was slightly elevated in the attached regions of two animals with 3-day detachments. Labeled cell types included: Müller cells, astrocytes, pericytes, and endothelial cells of the retinal vasculature, and both resident (microglial cells) and invading macrophages. In an earlier study RPE cells were also shown to proliferate in response to detachment. Thus, these data show that proliferation is a rapid response to detachment, reaching a maximum within 4 days, and that virtually every nonneuronal cell type in the retina can participate in this response. The data suggest that events leading to such clinical manifestations as proliferative vitreoretinopathy and subretinal fibrosis may have their beginnings in this very early proliferative response.