Optic nerve transection results in the death of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) by apoptosis. Apoptosis is regulated by the Bcl-2 family of proteins, of which the Bcl-2 homology (BH3) -only proteins forms a subset. As BH3-only proteins have been shown to play a significant role in regulating cell death in the central nervous system, we wished to investigate the role of Bcl-2 interacting mediator of cell death (Bim), a prominent member of this protein family in the regulation of cell death in the RGC layer using in vitro retinal explants. In this study, we use an innovative retinal shaving procedure to isolate the cells of the ganglion cell layer to use for western blotting. Members of the BH3-only protein family are down-regulated during retinal development and are not normally expressed in the adult retina. Using this procedure, we demonstrate that Bim is re-expressed and its expression is increased over time following axotomy. Expression of Bad and Bik decreases over the same time course, whereas there is no indication that Bid and Puma are re-expressed. We show that explants from Bim knockout mice are resistant to axotomy-induced death when compared with their wild-type counterparts. Genetic deletion of Bim also prevents caspase 3 cleavage. The activity of Bim can be negatively regulated by phosphorylation. We show that the decrease of Bim phosphorylation correlates with a decrease in expression of survival kinases such as pAkt and pERK over the same time course. These results implicate Bim re-expression as being essential for axotomy-induced death of RGCs and that phosphorylation of Bim negatively regulates its activity in RGCs.