Schwann cell basal lamina tubes serve as attractive conduits for regeneration of peripheral nerve axons. In the present study, by using basal lamina tubes prepared by in situ freeze-treatment of rat saphenous nerve, the effects of exogenously applied basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) on peripheral nerve regeneration was examined 2 and 5 days after bFGF administration. Regenerating axons were observed by light and electron microscopy using PGP9.5-immunohistochemistry for specific staining of axons. In addition, the localizations of bFGF and its receptor (FGF receptor-1) were examined by immunohistochemistry using anti-bFGF antibody and anti-FGF receptor-1 antibody, respectively. Regenerating axons extended further in the bFGF-administered segment than in the bFGF-untreated control segment. Electron microscopy showed that regenerating axons grew out unaccompanied by Schwann cells. Findings concerning angiogenesis and Schwann cell migration were very similar between the bFGF treated and control nerve segment. bFGF-immunoreactivity was not detected in the control nerve segment. In contrast, bFGF-immunoreactivity was detected on the basal lamina tubes as well as on the plasmalemma of regenerating axons facing the basal lamina in the bFGF treated nerve segment up to 5 days after administration, suggesting that exogenous bFGF can be retained in the basal lamina for several days after administration. FGF receptor was detected on the plasma membrane of regenerating axons where they abutted the basal lamina. These results indicate that bFGF could promote the extension of early regenerating axons by directly influencing the axons, but not via Schwann cells or angiogenesis.