Low intensity diffuse white fluorescent light (1,000 lx for 2 h) exclusively induced photoreceptor damage in the inferior retina of albino rats; the temporal retina showed extensive damage, whereas the nasal retina revealed threshold lesions prior to recovery. To expand our morphological data, further experiments were undertaken to determine if glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) expression was associated with the regions of photoreceptor damage. To follow the time course of GFAP expression, immunoblot analysis was carried out on retinal homogenates of dark-adapted (control) rats and light-exposed rats returned to cyclic light for 0 h, 1, 2, 3 and 6 days. A significant twofold increase in GFAP immunoreactivity over controls was observed in the retinas of light-exposed rats returned to cyclic light for 6 days. Using an indirect immunohistochemical method, retinal sections of the control and light-exposed rats allowed to recover for 6 days were stained for GFAP. GFAP immunoreactivity was localised to the astrocytes and Müller cells. Moreover, GFAP staining in Müller cells in the retinas of control animals was uniformly restricted to rare end-feet. In contrast, a gradient of GFAP immunoreactivity was observed in experimental rats, rising from the superior retina to the inferior temporal quadrant; the GFAP staining in the inferior nasal quadrant was intermediate. Thus, GFAP immunoreactivity was proportional to photoreceptor damage. Interestingly, no GFAP induction could be demonstrated in the pineal glands of light-exposed rats.