The vulnerability of subpopulations of retinal neurons delineated by their content of cytoskeletal or calcium-binding proteins was evaluated in the retinas of cynomolgus monkeys in which glaucoma was produced with an argon laser. We quantitatively compared the number of neurons containing either neurofilament (NF) protein, parvalbumin, calbindin or calretinin immunoreactivity in central and peripheral portions of the nasal and temporal quadrants of the retina from glaucomatous and fellow non-glaucomatous eyes. There was no significant difference between the proportion of amacrine, horizontal and bipolar cells labeled with antibodies to the calcium-binding proteins comparing the two eyes. NF triplet immunoreactivity was present in a subpopulation of retinal ganglion cells, many of which, but not all, likely correspond to large ganglion cells that subserve the magnocellular visual pathway. Loss of NF protein-containing retinal ganglion cells was widespread throughout the central (59-77% loss) and peripheral (96-97%) nasal and temporal quadrants and was associated with the loss of NF-immunoreactive optic nerve fibers in the glaucomatous eyes. Comparison of counts of NF-immunoreactive neurons with total cell loss evaluated by Nissl staining indicated that NF protein-immunoreactive cells represent a large proportion of the cells that degenerate in the glaucomatous eyes, particularly in the peripheral regions of the retina. Such data may be useful in determining the cellular basis for sensitivity to this pathologic process and may also be helpful in the design of diagnostic tests that may be sensitive to the loss of the subset of NF-immunoreactive ganglion cells.