Injury to a peripheral nerve induces in the dorsal root ganglia (DRG) sprouting of sympathetic and peptidergic terminals around large-diameter sensory neurons that project in the damaged nerve. This pathological change may be implicated in the chronic pain syndromes seen in some patients with peripheral nerve injury. The mechanisms underlying the sprouting are not known. Using in situ hybridization and immunohistochemical techniques, we have now found that nerve growth factor (NGF) and neurotrophin-3 (NT3) synthesis is upregulated in satellite cells surrounding neurons in lesioned DRG as early as 48 h after nerve injury. This response lasts for at least 2 months. Quantitative analysis showed that the levels of mRNAs for NT3 and NGF increased in ipsilateral but not contralateral DRG after nerve injury. Noradrenergic sprouting around the axotomized neurons was associated with p75-immunoreactive satellite cells. Further, antibodies specific to NGF or NT3, delivered by an osmotic mini-pump to the DRG via the lesioned L5 spinal nerve, significantly reduced noradrenergic sprouting. These results implicate satellite cell-derived neurotrophins in the induction of sympathetic sprouting following peripheral nerve injury.