Leukaemia inhibitory factor (LIF) and Interleukin-6 (IL-6) are multifunctional cytokines that are related on the basis of their predicted structural similarities and shared signal transducing receptor components. Both these factors stimulate myoblast proliferation, and whereas LIF is neurotrophic for sensory neurons, and for the motor neurons which innervate muscle, IL-6 has only been reported to act on a population of septal neurons in the brain. We have looked at the effect of peripheral nerve trauma on the expression of these factors. We show here that whereas LIF and IL-6 mRNAs are expressed in low levels in normal sciatic nerve and skeletal muscle, there is significant up-regulation in the nerve segments after injury, with proximally and distally. There is also an increase in LIF and IL-6 expression in the denervated muscle located largely in the muscle cells. In addition, while there is retrograde axonal transport of LIF by the sciatic nerve, IL-6 is not retrogradely transported, and as a result, IL-6 does not stimulate the survival of sensory neurons in vitro. Both growth factors are produced by Schwann cells. These results show a rapid response in the expression of these genes after injury and suggest that LIF and IL-6 act as trauma factors but with different roles in injured peripheral nerve.