Peripheral nerve transection induces significant changes in neuropeptide expression and content in injured primary sensory neurons, possibly due to loss of target derived neurotrophic support. This study shows that neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) delivery to the injured nerve influences neuropeptide Y (NPY) expression within dorsal root ganglia (DRG) neurons. NT-3 was delivered by grafting impregnated fibronectin (500 ng/ml; NT group) in the axotomised sciatic nerve. Animals grafted with plain fibronectin mats (FN) or nerve grafts (NG) were used as controls. L4 and L5 DRG from operated and contralateral sides were harvested between 5 and 240 d. Using immunohistochemistry and computerised image analysis the percentage, diameter and optical density of neurons expressing calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), substance P (SP), vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) and NPY were quantified. Sciatic nerve axotomy resulted in significant reduction in expression of CGRP and SP, and significant upregulation of VIP and NPY (P<0.05 for ipsilateral vs contralateral DRG). By d 30, exogenous NT-3 and nerve graft attenuated the upregulation of NPY (P<0.05 for NT and NG vs FN). However, NT-3 administration did not influence the expression of CGRP, SP or VIP. The mean cell diameter of NPY immunoreactive neurons was significantly smaller in the NT-3 group (P<0.05 for NT vs FN and NG) suggesting a differential influence of NT-3 on larger neurons. The optical densities of NPY immunoreactive neurons of equal size were the same in each group at any time point, indicating that the neurons responding to NT-3 downregulate NPY expression to levels not detectable by immunohistochemistry. These results demonstrate that targeted administration of NT-3 regulates the phenotype of a NPY-immunoreactive neuronal subpopulation in the dorsal root ganglia, a further evidence of the trophic role of neurotrophins on primary sensory neurons.