THYROID hormones, which play an important role in the development and regeneration of the nervous system, require the presence of specific nuclear T3 receptors (NT3R). In this study we provide evidence that NT3R expression by Schwann cells was up-regulated in response to a loss of axonal contact in vitro and in vivo. In dorsal root ganglia explant cultures, Schwann cells which accompanied axons (nerve fibres) were devoid of NT3R. When Schwann cells were orphaned from axon contact by axon transection, all the nuclei of these cells displayed NT3R immunoreactivity. Similar results were obtained in situ; in adult rat sciatic nerve, Schwann cells which ensheathed healthy axons never expressed NT3R immunoreactivity. After sciatic nerve transection in vivo the nuclei of Schwann cells deprived of axonal contact displayed a clear NT3R immunoreaction.