The sensory axons of the adult mouse sciatic nerve were shown to regenerate after a local test crush lesion in vitro in a serum-free medium. The average outgrowth distance of the leading axons after culturing for 3 days was 2.8 ± 0.1 mm, which was shorter than in vivo (3.8 ± 0.2 mm). With the use of a compartmentalised culture system we could show that regeneration was partially dependent on local protein synthesis in the injury region. The initial stages of regeneration did not seem to involve neurotrophins since both K252a and K252b, selective and nontoxic inhibitors of the neurotrophin actions, failed to inhibit axonal growth. The present in vitro model system offers favourable conditions to investigate the early events of the regeneration process in an adult mammalian peripheral nerve.