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The molecular mechanisms of neural and synaptic plasticity in the vestibular nuclei during 'vestibular compensation', the behavioural recovery that follows deafferentation of one inner ear, are largely unknown. In this study we have used differential proteomics techniques to determine changes in protein expression in ipsi-lesional and contra-lesional medial vestibular nuclei (MVN) of rats, 1 week after either sham surgery or unilateral labyrinthectomy (UL). A systematic comparison of 634 protein spots in two-dimensional electrophoresis gels across five experimental conditions revealed 54 spots, containing 26 proteins whose level was significantly altered 1 week post-UL. The axon-guidance-associated proteins neuropilin-2 and dehydropyriminidase-related protein-2 were upregulated in the MVN after UL. Changes in levels of further specific proteins indicate a coordinated upregulation of mitochondrial function, ATP biosynthesis and phosphate metabolism in the vestibular nuclei 1 week post-UL. These may reflect the metabolic energy demands of processes such as gliosis, neuronal outgrowth and synaptic remodelling that occur after UL. Our findings suggest novel roles for axon elaboration and guidance molecules, as well as mitochondrial and metabolic regulatory proteins, in the post-lesional physiology of the MVN during vestibular system plasticity.