Chondroitin sulphate proteoglycan (CSPG) inhibits axonal regeneration in the central nervous system (CNS) and its local degradation promotes repair. We postulated that the enzymatic degradation of CSPG generates reparative products. Here we show that an enzymatic degradation product of CSPG, a specific disaccharide (CSPG-DS), promoted CNS recovery by modulating both neuronal and microglial behaviour. In neurons, acting via a mechanism that involves the PKCα and PYK2 intracellular signalling pathways, CSPG-DS induced neurite outgrowth and protected against neuronal toxicity and axonal collapse in vitro. In microglia, via a mechanism that involves ERK1/2 and PYK2, CSPG-DS evoked a response that allowed these cells to manifest a neuroprotective phenotype ex vivo. In vivo, systemically or locally injected CSPG-DS protected neurons in mice subjected to glutamate or aggregated β-amyloid intoxication. Our results suggest that treatment with CSPG-DS might provide a way to promote post-traumatic recovery, via multiple cellular targets.