Activating transcription factor 3 (ATF3) has been proposed as a marker for injured neurons. Thus, while undetectable normally in sensory, motor, or sympathetic neurons, ATF3-like immunoreactivity (ATF3-IR) is readily detectable in such cells after axotomy. Here we examined ATF3-IR in the superior cervical ganglion (SCG) and the middle and inferior cervical ganglia (MICG) after transection of the predominantly preganglionic cervical sympathetic trunk (CST). The purpose of the study was to determine whether neurons in the SCG would exhibit ATF3-IR after decentralization and, if they did not, whether the induction of ATF3-IR was sensitive enough to identify the small numbers of neurons in the SCG and MICG that project their axons into the CST. Following transection of the CST, the majority of deafferented neurons in the SCG showed no ATF3-IR; however, a small group of neurons in both the SCG and MICG were labeled, and the location of the labeled neurons within these ganglia corresponded to that of neurons axotomized by this procedure. Furthermore, the ATF3-positive neurons in the MICG could be retrogradely labeled from the transected CST. In addition, a large number of smaller cells were labeled in the SCG, though not in the MICG, and some of these cells were double labeled with an antiserum to the glial protein S-100. These data indicate that, after transection of the CST, neuronal labeling in the SCG and MICG is restricted to axotomized neurons but that in addition there is extensive labeling of glial cells associated with anterograde degeneration within the SCG.