Many conditions are thought to contribute to neuron death after axotomy, including immaturity of the cell at the time of injury, inability to reestablish or maintain target contact, and dependence on trophic factors produced by targets. Exogenous application of neurotrophic factors and transplants of peripheral nerve and embryonic central nervous system (CNS) tissue temporarily rescue axotomized CNS neurons, but permanent rescue may require transplants that are normal targets of the injured neurons. We examined the requirements for survival of axotomized Clarke's nucleus (CN) neurons. Two months after hemisection of the spinal cord at the T8 segment, there was an ipsilateral 30% loss of neurons at the L1 segment in adult operates and a 40% loss in neonates. Transplants of embryonic spinal cord, cerebellum, and neocortex inserted into the T8 segment at the time of hemisection prevented virtually all of the cell death in both adults and neonates, but transplants of embryonic striatum were ineffective. None of the grafts prevented the somal atrophy of CN neurons caused by axotomy. Retrograde transport of fluoro-gold from the cerebellum demonstrated that 33% of all CN neurons at L1 project to the cerebellum, 50% of these died following a T8 hemisection, but all these projection neurons were rescued by a transplant of embryonic spinal cord. These results suggest that the rescue of axotomized CN neurons is relatively specific for the normal target areas of these neurons, but this specificity is not absolute and may depend on the distribution and synthesis of particular neurotrophic agents.