New rod photoreceptors are added to mature teleost retinas throughout life by regulated proliferation of rod precursor cells (RPCs). In this study, candidate regulators of RPC proliferation, acidic and basic fibroblast growth factors (aFGF and bFGF; 0.1 microgram/eye), interleukin-6 (IL-6; 0.1 microgram) and phytohaemagglutinin (HA15; 1.0 microgram), were injected intravitreally into one eye of goldfish (body length 5-6 cm), and mitotic RPCs in both retinas were detected and counted 3-50 days later by immunohistochemistry for proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA). Retinal integrity after treatment was assessed by immunohistochemistry for tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) and other retinal antigens. All the agents applied altered the density of PCNA-immunoreactive (ir) cells in the outer and inner nuclear layers (ONL and INL) in both retinas as soon as 2-3 days after unilateral injection. Initially (2-20 days after injection), particularly in the treated retina, PCNA-ir cells appeared in clusters accompanied by various numbers of scattered individual cells, but subsequently the clusters of PCNA-ir cells disappeared while the density of singly distributed cells increased until 30 days after injection. At the doses given, these effects were most striking with aFGF and bFGF and less with IL-6 and HA15. In radial cryosections, other cellular elements immunoreactive to markers such as TH, serotonin, neuropeptide Y, substance P, glutamine synthetase, glial fibrillary acidic protein and protein kinase C, were found normal in terms of morphology. In addition, a monoclonal antibody (NN-2) was found to label some non-neuronal structures (macrophages, microglia and blood vessels) inside and outside the retina intoxicated with 6-hydroxydopamine, a few NN-2-ir cells being PCNA-positive. However, clustered PCNA-ir and marginal neuroblast cells were NN-2-negative. These results indicate that FGFs may play an important role in stimulating the proliferation of RPCs, for example, in the regeneration of fish retinas following neurotoxic destruction.