The distribution of Thy-1 in the retina and optic nerve has been examined immunohistochemically, and compared to that of the astrocytic marker glial fibrillary acidic protein. The axons and cell bodies of ganglion cells were found to be Thy-1 positive as were processes within the inner plexiform layer. Transection of the optic nerve in the neonatal rat results in the rapid degeneration of the ganglion cells but some Thy-1 staining remains in the inner plexiform layer. We have estimated using an immunoassay of normal and optic nerve transected retinae that about 70% of the Thy-1 in the retina is on ganglion cells and their axons and the remainder is on cells which contribute processes to the inner plexiform layer, presumably amacrine, bipolar or Müller cells. In the optic nerve the Thy-1 was found to be limited to the fascicles of optic nerve fibres and the intrafascicular spaces, containing astrocytes and their processes, were not stained. Axotomy of the adult nerve, which produced axonal degeneration and astrocytic proliferation, led to a loss of over 95% of the Thy-1 from the nerve. We found no evidence that the astrocytes of the retina or optic nerve were Thy-1 positive in normal animals or during degeneration.