The exogenous application of recombinant galectin-1 has recently been shown to promote the rate of peripheral nerve regeneration. Endogenous neuronal galectin-1 expression has recently been demonstrated to increase after axotomy. Here we demonstrate a significant increase in the endogenous neuronal expression of galectin-1 mRNA in facial motoneurons after either a nerve resection or crush injury in mice. This increase in galectin-1 expression was due in part to the loss of target-derived factor(s) as indicated by both the return of galectin-1 expression to control levels following target re-innervation and the increase in galectin-1 expression after blockade of axonal transport by an interneuronal colchicine injection. Furthermore, interneuronal injections of glial-derived neurotrophic factor into the uninjured nerve also increased galectin-1 mRNA expression within facial motoneurons suggesting that positive signals may also be involved in the regulation of galectin-1 expression. Galectin-1 null mutant mice showed an attenuated rate of functional recovery of whisking movement after a facial nerve crush.