CNS injury is often localized but can be followed by more widespread secondary degenerative events that usually result in greater functional loss. Using a partial transection model in rat optic nerve (ON). we recently demonstrated in vivo increases in the oxidative stress-associated enzyme MnSOD 5 min after injury. However, mechanisms by which early oxidative stress spreads remain unclear. In the present study, we assessed ion distributions, additional oxidative stress indicators, and ion channel immunoreactivity in ON in the first 24 hr after partial transection. Using nanoscale secondary ion mass spectroscopy (NanoSIMS), we demonstrate changes in the distribution pattern of Ca ions following partial ON transection. Regions of elevated Ca ions in normal ON in vivo rapidly decrease following partial ON transection, but there is an increasingly punctate distribution at 5 min and 24 hr after injury. We also show rapid decreases in catalase activity and later increases in immunoreactivity of the advanced glycation end product carboxymethyl lysine in astrocytes. Increased oxidative stress in astrocytes is accompanied by significantly increased immunoreactivity of the AMPA receptor subunit GluR1 and aquaporin 4 (AQP4). Taken together, the results indicate that Ca ion changes and oxidative stress are early events following partial ON injury that are associated with changes in GluR1 AMPA receptor subunits and altered ionic balance resulting from increased AQP4. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.