Although the regeneration of nervous tissue in the vertebrate is very limited, there are a few remarkable examples of this process. Understanding the factors that regulate CNS regeneration in those areas of the nervous system where it occurs, will doubtless provide generally applicable, essential information about the process. It has been known for some time that the amphibian retina regenerates following its destruction. Transplant studies, confirmed later by in vitro experiments, have shown that one source of new neurons in regenerating retina is the retinal pigmented epithelium (RPE). RPE cells can transdifferentiate to either neurons or lens cells in culture, but little is known about the factors that regulate this process. A recent study in vivo of retinal regeneration provided evidence that the association of RPE cells with the retinal vascular membrane is an important step in transdifferentiation. We report here that transdifferentiation in vitro is profoundly influenced by the substrate on which the cells are cultured; RPE cells plated on laminin-containing substrates frequently transdifferentiate into neurons. In addition, we have found a high concentration of laminin in the Rana retinal vascular membrane. Therefore, we propose that retinal regeneration is initiated by changes in the composition of the extracellular matrix that RPE cells contact early in the process.