Intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM-1, CD54) is a widely expressed glycoprotein, which plays an important role in leukocyte extravasation and in the interaction of lymphocytes with antigen-presenting cells. In the current study we examined the regulation of ICAM-1 in the mouse facial motor nucleus after facial nerve transection, using immunohistochemistry, confocal laser microscopy and electron microscopy. In the normal facial nucleus ICAM-1 immunoreactivity was restricted to vascular endothelium. Transection of the facial nerve led to a strong and selective upregulation of ICAM-1 on activated microglia. Quantitation of microglial ICAM-1 immunoreactivity revealed a biphasic increase. The first peak 1–2 days post operation paralleling the early stage of microglial activation was followed by a decline at 4–7 days. The second induction of ICAM-1 occured at day 14 accompanying the period of neuronal cell death and microglial phagocytosis of neuronal debris. Immunoelectron microscopy showed strong ICAM-1 reactivity on the cell membrane of activated microglia at day 2. During the second peak (day 14), ICAM-1 was also observed on lymphocytes adhering to phagocytotic microglia forming aggregates around neuronal debris. No immunolabelling was observed on neurons, astrocytes or oligodendroglia. These data suggest the involvement of ICAM-1 in the adhesion of activated microglia, in their phagocytosis of neuronal debris, and also in the interaction with infiltrating lymphocytes following this injury.