Behavioral, cellular and molecular changes were examined following axonal injury in the marine mollusc Aplysia californica. Unilateral nerve injury was performed by crushing the pleural-pedal connective and the peripheral pedal nerves innervating one side of the posterior body wall and the tail. The injury procedure severs the axons of the pleural sensory neurons resulting in the blockade of the tail-elicited siphon- withdrawal reflex. Partial reflex recovery is observed within 3 d and reaches 50% of the pretest value by six weeks postinjury. Retrograde staining of injured nerves combined with electrophysiological recordings from siphon motor neurons show that axons can regenerate through the crushed site and reconnect with the tail by three weeks postinjury. Moreover, the behavioral and electrophysiological measurements suggest that the contralateral sensory neurons may contribute to the early recovery of the siphon-withdrawal reflex. The levels of mRNAs coding for actin and calreticulin are elevated while the mRNAs coding for intermediate filament protein, sensorin A, FMRFamide are reduced in the ipsilateral pleural ganglia as detected by Northern blots. In the contralateral pleural ganglia, the levels of mRNAs coding for actin, sensorin A and FMRFamide are elevated. These molecular changes in both the ipsi- and contralateral sides are consistent with the hypothesis that both sides are participating in the behavioral recovery following unilateral axonal injury.