In the present study, we evaluated changes in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) immunoreactivity in the rat lumbar (L) 5 dorsal root ganglion (DRG) and areas where afferents from the DRG terminate, the L5 spinal cord and gracile nuclei, following unilateral sciatic nerve transection or crush. From 3 days to 4 weeks following cut or crush injury, the percentage of medium and large BDNF-immunoreactive neurons in the ipsilateral DRG increased significantly compared with those on the contralateral side. Following cut injury, there was no significant change in the percentage of small BDNF-immunoreactive neurons in the ipsilateral DRG; however, the intensity of immunoreactivity of these cells decreased. Following crush injury, however, both the percentage and intensity of small BDNF-immunoreactive neurons in the ipsilateral DRG significantly increased. Following cut injury, the expression of BDNF-immunoreactive axonal fibers decreased markedly in the ipsilateral superficial laminae of the L5 spinal cord and increased significantly in the ipsilateral deeper laminae of the spinal cord and gracile nuclei. Crush injury induced a marked increase in the expression of BDNF-immunoreactive axonal fibers in the superficial laminae of the spinal cord and gracile nuclei. These differences in BDNF response in the DRG and spinal cord after cut or crush injuries may reflect differences in trophic support to the injured DRG neurons and altered neuronal activity in the spinal cord and gracile nuclei following different types of peripheral nerve injury.