In adult visual system, goldfish can regrow their axons and fully restore their visual function even after optic nerve transection. The optic nerve regeneration process in goldfish is very long and it takes about a half year to fully recover visual function via synaptic refinement. Therefore, we investigated time course of growth-associated protein 43 (GAP43) expression in the goldfish retina for over 6 months after axotomy. In the control retina, very weak immunoreactivity could be seen in the retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). The immunoreactivity of GAP43 started to increase in the RGCs at 5 days, peaked at 7–20 days and then gradually decreased at 30–40 days after axotomy. The weak but significant immunoreactivity of GAP43 in the RGCs continued during 50–90 days and slowly returned to the control level by 180 days after lesion. The levels of GAP43 mRNA showed a biphasic pattern; a short-peak increase (9-folds) at 1–3 weeks and a long plateau increase (5-folds) at 50–120 days after axotomy. Thereafter, the levels declined to the control value by 180 days after axotomy. The changes of chasing behavior of pair of goldfish with bilaterally axotomized optic nerve also showed a slow biphasic recovery pattern in time course. Although further experiment is needed to elucidate the role of GAP43 in the regrowing axon terminals, the GAP43 is a good biochemical marker for monitoring the whole period of optic nerve regeneration in fish.
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