One-sided lateral funiculotomy at the C-2 segment induced axon reaction in the contralateral red nucleus of adult cats. Two to 60 days postoperatively the animals were sacrificed and the mesencephalon was fixed in ethanol-acetic acid, 3:1. Ten micrometer paraffin sections including both red nuclei were stained for RNA with azure B after incubation in DNAse. Cytophotometric measurements of RNA content of neurons from the caudal 600-1000 micrometer of each red nucleus were made with a Zeiss Cytoscan system using an automatic scanning stage. In contrast to the heightened RNA synthesis that has been reported for axotomized peripheral (extrinsic) neurons, the axotomized central (intrinsic) neurons of the red nucleus showed no evidence of accumulation of cytoplasmic or nucleolar RNA. Rather depletion of cellular RNA occurred. Further indication of the regressive nature of rubral axon reaction derived from morphometric measurements that showed cytoplasmic, nuclear and nucleolar atrophy of the neurons of the red nucleus contralateral to operation with the exception of a possible transient cytoplasmic enlargement 9 days postoperatively. From the cytophotometric and morphometric data here reported we are led to suggest that the frequently observed failure of axonal repair in mammalian CNS results from the innately regressive nature of the axon reaction of many mammalian central neurons.