Conditioning lesions of peripheral nerves improve axonal regeneration after injury and involve changes in expression of proteins required for axonal growth. Integrin alpha7beta1 expression in motor and sensory neurons increases following nerve lesions and motor axon regeneration is impaired in alpha7 integrin KO mice (J. Neurosci. 20, 1822-1830). To investigate the role of alpha7beta1 integrin in sensory axon regeneration, dorsal root ganglia of adult mice were cultured in gels of laminin-rich extracellular matrix (Matrigel) or collagen. Normal dorsal root ganglia in Matrigel or collagen supplemented with laminin showed spontaneous axonal outgrowth, which was greatly increased in conditioned preparations, but only in the presence of laminin. Conditioned dorsal root ganglia from normal mice cultured with a blocking antibody to beta1 integrin and from alpha7 integrin KO mice showed reduced axonal growth in both Matrigel- and laminin-supplemented collagen gels. Enhanced axonal regeneration after conditioning lesions therefore involves increased responsiveness to laminin and integrin alpha7beta1 expression.