Leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) is a member of a family of neuropoietic cytokines which influence neuronal survival, differentiation and response to injury. In cell lines LIF activates the Jak/Tyk tyrosine kinases and the STAT family of transcription factors. We have investigated whether the Jak-STAT intracellular signaling pathway is activated by LIF after neuronal injury in vivo. Axotomy of postganglionic sympathetic nerves resulted in sustained activation of members of the STAT transcription factor family. This activation is dependent on LIF as axotomy failed to activate STAT proteins in LIF-deficient mice. These data indicate that LIF-dependent activation of STAT proteins is one of the signal transduction pathways activated after neuronal injury.