Dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons regenerate after a peripheral nerve injury but not after injury to their axons in the spinal cord. A key question is which transcription factors drive the changes in gene expression that increase the intrinsic growth state of peripherally injured sensory neurons? A prime candidate is activating transcription factor-3 (ATF-3), a transcription factor that we find is induced in all DRG neurons after peripheral, but not central axonal injury. Moreover, we show in adult DRG neurons that a preconditioning peripheral, but not central axonal injury, increases their growth, correlating closely with the pattern of ATF-3 induction. Using viral vectors, we delivered ATF-3 to cultured adult DRG neurons and find that ATF-3 enhances neurite outgrowth. Furthermore, ATF-3 promotes long sparsely branched neurites. ATF-3 overexpression did not increase c-Jun expression. ATF-3 may contribute, therefore, to neurite outgrowth by orchestrating the gene expression responses in injured neurons.