Previous studies of the olfactory nerve, mainly in higher vertebrates, have indicated that axonal injury causes total degeneration of the mature neurons, followed by replacement of new neuronal cells arising from undifferentiated mucosal cells. A similar regeneration process was confirmed in the garfish olfactory system. Regeneration of the nerve, crushed 1.5 cm from the cell bodies, is found to produce three distinct populations of regenerating fibers. The first traverses the crush site 1 wk postoperative and progresses along the nerve at a rate of 5.8 +/- 0.3 mm/d for the leading fibers of the group. The second group of fibers traverses the crush site after 2 wk postcrush and advances at a rate of 2.1 +/- 0.1 mm/d for the leading fibers. The rate of growth of this group of fibers remains constant for 60 d but subsequently falls to 1.6 +/- 0.2 for the leading population of fibers. The leading fibers in the third group of regenerating axons traverse the crush site after 4 wk and advance at a constant rate of 0.8 +/- 0.2 mm/d. The multiple populations of regenerating fibers with differing rates of growth are discussed in the context of precursor cell maturity at the time of nerve injury and possible conditioning effects of the lesion upon these cells. Electron microscopy indicates that the number of axons decreases extensively after crush. The first two phases of regenerating axons represent a total of between 6 and 10% of the original axonal population and are typically characterized by small fascicles of axons surrounded by Schwann cells and large amounts of collagenous material. The third phase of fibers represents between 50 and 70% of the original axonal population.

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