Permanent disabilities following CNS injuries result from the failure of injured axons to regenerate and rebuild functional connections with their original targets. By contrast, injury to peripheral nerves is followed by robust regeneration, which can lead to recovery of sensory and motor functions. This regenerative response requires the induction of widespread transcriptional and epigenetic changes in injured neurons. Considerable progress has been made in recent years in understanding how peripheral axon injury elicits these widespread changes through the coordinated actions of transcription factors, epigenetic modifiers and, to a lesser extent, microRNAs. Although many questions remain about the interplay between these mechanisms, these new findings provide important insights into the pivotal role of coordinated gene expression and chromatin remodelling in the neuronal response to injury.