In the last decade, numerous studies have investigated molecular changes in excitatory glutamatergic receptors in axotomized motoneurons, but few data are available concerning the modulation of inhibitory amino acid receptors. We report here the effect of axotomy on the expression of glycine receptors, gephyrin, vesicular inhibitory amino acid transporter (VIAAT) and synapsin I in rat facial motor neurons as demonstrated by in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry. The facial nerve trunk was sectioned unilaterally and rats were killed 1, 3, 8, 30 or 60 days after surgery. We investigated the mechanisms underlying the changes in production of these proteins following axotomy by perfusing the facial nerve with colchicine or tetrodotoxin, and injecting cardiotoxin or botulinum toxin independently and unilaterally into the whisker pads of normal rats. Animals were killed 8 days later and processed for immunohistochemistry. The abundance of GlyR subunits and gephyrin fell sharply in the axotomized facial nucleus. This decrease began 1 day after axotomy and was lowest at 8 days, with protein levels returning to normal by day 60. Abnormal synapsin immunolabelling was also observed between days 8 and 60 after axotomy but we detected no change in VIAAT immunoreactivity. The effect of colchicine was similar to, but weaker than, that of axotomy. In contrast, tetrodotoxin, cardiotoxin and botulinum toxin had no significant effect. Thus, axotomy-induced changes probably resulted from a loss of trophic factor transported from the periphery or a positive injury signal, or both. They did not seem to depend on the disruption of activity.