The protooncogene bcl-2 can block neuronal death from both naturally occurring apoptosis and exogenous insults, bcl-2 is therefore a promising candidate for the prevention of excitotoxic neuronal death. Using an adeno- associated viral vector, we delivered the bcl-2 gene to the ganglion cell layer of the rat eye. We hypothesized that infection with bcl-2 would protect ganglion cells against excitotoxic cell death. However, retinal infection with bcl-2 increased ganglion cell susceptibility to both axonal injury and intravitreal NMDA. Our study-intended to explore the possibility of bcl-2 transduction as an in vivo therapeutic approach-revealed a deleterious effect of bcl-2 transduction.