Astrocytes respond vigorously to diverse neurological insults. It is still not clear, however, whether this response is stereotypic following different insults or varies according to the injury. We have used a novel immunocytochemical marker of reactive astrocytes, termed M22, together with antibodies to glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), to analyze region- and insult-specific differences in reactive astrocytosis in the murine central nervous system (CNS). Pathology was variously induced by (1) infectious agents, (2) transgenic overexpression of a viral glycoprotein or cytokine, or (3) focal trauma. Scrapie infection induced high levels of both GFAP and M22 epitope expression by hippocampal reactive astrocytes, but neither scrapie nor wild mouse retrovirus infection induced detectable M22 staining in reactive astrocytes of the caudal brain. Focal trauma and human immunodeficiency virus gp120 overexpression induced M22 expression only in the hippocampus, while interleukin-6 overexpression induced it in cerebellar astrocytes. Although M22 expression was limited to areas with extensive damage, GFAP expression was induced in every region of the mouse brain displaying pathology. Staining of routinely fixed human brain tissue demonstrated that M22 also labeled reactive astrocytes in chronic human CNS disease. The restriction of M22 expression to areas of strongly GFAP-positive astrocytosis suggests that the M22 antibody identified highly activated reactive astrocytes. Because of this selective staining of activated astrocytes, the M22 antibody may provide neuropathologists with a good marker for qualitative analysis of the astrocytic response to different injuries.