Gene therapy has developed as a promising approach for therapy in a broad variety of conditions. Viral vectors have been developed that may replace a defective gene, prevent expression of a mutant gene, or deliver a protective gene and thereby delay cellular loss. Using adeno-associated virus containing green fluorescent protein (AAV-GFP) we were able to specifically transduce cells located in the inner retina and induce over-expression of GFP in adult rat retinae. The delivery and expression of GFP had no influence themselves on retinal ganglion cell survival. Administration of the reporter vector AAV-GFP provided retinal ganglion cells with slight but significant protection from intravitreal NMDA. This was a locally mediated phenomenon; greater protection was seen in regions with more transduced cells. Any evaluation of the efficacy of a putative viral vector should consider the possible protective or toxic effect of the native virus.