Recovery of erectile dysfunction after cavernous nerve injury takes a long period. To elucidate this mechanism, unilateral cavernous nerve of male rat was cut, and the expression level of a nerve regeneration marker, the growth associated protein-43 (GAP-43) mRNA was evaluated by in situ hybridization and RT-PCR. While GAP-43 mRNA expression was transiently increased in the injured neurons of the major pelvic ganglion (MPG) at 7 days after nerve injury, continuous increase of GAP-43 mRNA was observed in the contralateral MPG from 7 days to 6 months after the nerve injury. Histochemical double-labeling studies for either neuronal NOS (nNOS) or tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) and the GAP-43 mRNA expression demonstrated that in injured MPG the transient up-regulation of GAP-43 mRNA was mainly seen in nNOS negative and/or TH positive neurons, suggesting non-parasympathetic post-ganglionic neurons, and also demonstrated that in contralateral MPG GAP-43 mRNA positive neurons were gradually increased in nNOS positive but TH negative neurons, suggesting parasympathetic post-ganglionic neurons. When a retrograde tracer Fluorogold (FG) was injected into the penile crus 7 days before histological experiments, FG-positive neurons were, if any, hardly seen in nNOS-positive neurons of the injured MPG for at least 6 months, whereas numerous FG-positive cells were seen in nNOS-positive neurons of the contralateral MPG. These results suggest that post-ganglionic projecting neurons of the intact side, which express increased GAP-43 mRNA, would be most likely to contribute to the recovery of the erectile function after unilateral cavernous nerve injury possibly by a plastic change such as nerve sprouting.