We have previously demonstrated that systemic administration of testosterone accelerates functional recovery, as measured behaviorally, from facial paralysis induced by facial nerve crush axotomy in gonadectomized adult male hamsters. In this investigation, the hypothesis that testosterone enhances return of motor function by increasing the rate of axonal regeneration following injury was tested using fast axonal transport of radioactively labeled proteins to assess facial nerve regeneration. Adult castrated and intact males, and intact females, were subjected to right facial nerve crush axotomy at the stylomastoid foramen. One-half of the axotomized animals in each group received subcutaneous implants of testosterone, with the remainder of the animals sham implanted. Systemic administration of testosterone resulted in a 26-30% increase in the rate of regeneration of the fastest growing population of axons in the male experimental groups, regardless of whether the animal was castrated or not. This rate increase is similar to that observed in the conditioning lesion paradigm utilized by others. In the females, testosterone had a significant, but less pronounced, effect on the rate of axonal regeneration, which may be due in part to inherent gender-related differences in regenerative properties of facial motoneurons. A surprising finding of this study was that no shortening of the delay of sprout formation by testosterone was observed across the various experimental groups. These data suggest that the mechanism by which gonadal steroids act in the injured nervous system is partly through the differential regulation of the regenerative properties of the injured cell, presumably via hormone receptor-mediated action at the level of the neuronal genome.