Although a number of cytokines have been implicated in tissue regeneration, it is unknown which ones actually function in vivo. Here, we use mice with a targeted mutation in the leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) gene to examine the role of LIF in muscle regeneration. Using a muscle crush model, we show that muscle regeneration in LIF knockout mice is significantly, reduced compared to control littermates. Further, targeted infusion of LIF in both normal and LIF knockout animals stimulated muscle regeneration, but the stimulation observed was much greater in the mutant animals than in controls. In contrast, interleukin-6 and transforming growth factor-alpha, which also stimulate myoblast proliferation in vitro, had no effect on regeneration. These findings demonstrate directly that LIF is involved in regeneration of injured muscle and points to the use of LIF as a therapeutic agent in the treatment of neuromuscular disease.