The response of retinal ganglion cells to optic nerve crush was examined in the hooded rat. Intracranial nerve crush produces a transient shrinkage of the retinal ganglion cells during the first several weeks postoperatively but partial recovery of cell size then appears to occur. This transient response is considered to be a direct response to axotomy. Retrograde transport of horseradish peroxidase (HRP) is clearly demonstrated at 2 weeks postoperatively. Transport of newly synthesized protein progressively decreases over the first 2 postoperative months. The ganglion cell therefore retains viability for at least the first few weeks after axotomy. Loss of 60% of the neurons in the ganglion cell layer occurs between 3 and 7 months postoperatively. This late occurring retrograde response is considered to result at least in part from loss of sustaining trophic influences rather than as a direct result of the lesion.