Nerve growth factor (NGF) is suggested to be neuroprotective after nerve injury; however, retinal ganglion cells (RGC) degenerate following optic-nerve crush (ONC), even in the presence of increased levels of endogenous NGF. To further investigate this apparently paradoxical condition, a time-course study was performed to evaluate the effects of unilateral ONC on NGF expression and signaling in the adult retina. Visually evoked potential and immunofluorescence staining were used to assess axonal damage and RGC loss. The levels of NGF, proNGF, p75NTR, TrkA and GFAP and the activation of several intracellular pathways were analyzed at 1, 3, 7 and 14 days after crush (dac) by ELISA/Western Blot and PathScan intracellular signaling array. The progressive RGC loss and nerve impairment featured an early and sustained activation of apoptotic pathways; and GFAP and p75NTR enhancement. In contrast, ONC-induced reduction of TrkA, and increased proNGF were observed only at 7 and 14 dac. We propose that proNGF and p75NTR contribute to exacerbate retinal degeneration by further stimulating apoptosis during the second week after injury, and thus hamper the neuroprotective effect of the endogenous NGF. These findings might aid in identifying effective treatment windows for NGF-based strategies to counteract retinal and/or optic-nerve degeneration. © 2017 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.