In order to determine functional roles of basic fibroblast growth factor (FGF-2) in the peripheral nervous system we have analysed the expression of FGF-2 and FGF receptor 1 (FGFR1) in spinal ganglia and the sciatic nerve under normal conditions and after nerve crush using RNAse protection assay and in situ hybridization. In intact spinal ganglia, both FGF-2 and FGFR1 messenger RNAs are expressed, albeit at different levels. In situ hybridization identifies satellite cells as the source of FGF-2 and sensory neurons as the source of FGFR1 suggesting a paracrine mode of action of FGF-2 on sensory neurons. One day after crush lesion FGF-2 is significantly up-regulated in sensory ganglia L4-L6. Highest levels are found at day 7; control levels are approached after 28 days. FGFR1 messenger RNA, which is strongly expressed in intact spinal ganglia, displays no significant change after lesion. In the intact sciatic nerve, FGFR1 messenger RNA is detected at higher levels than FGF-2 messenger RNA. After injury, both transcripts display a time-dependent up-regulation in both the proximal and distal nerve stump. Schwann cells, as a putative source of the sciatic nerve-derived FGF-2, express both FGF-2 and FGFR1 messenger RNAs in vitro. The FGFR1 transcript level is increased in the presence of forskolin. FGF-2 does not affect expression of FGFR1 messenger RNA but stimulates its own expression. These results show that during peripheral nerve regeneration FGF-2 is up-regulated in both the crushed nerve and the respective spinal ganglia suggesting a possible physiological function of FGF-2 during the regeneration process.