After peripheral nerve injury, the number of sensory neurons in the adult dorsal root ganglia (DRG) is initially reduced but recovers to a normal level several months later. The mechanisms underlying the neuronal recovery after injury are not clear. Here, we showed that in the DRG explant culture, a subpopulation of cells that emigrated out from adult rat DRG expressed nestin and p75 neurotrophin receptor and formed clusters and spheres. They differentiated into neurons, glia, and smooth muscle cells in the presence or absence of serum and formed secondary and tertiary neurospheres in cloning assays. Molecular expression analysis demonstrated the characteristics of neural crest progenitors and their potential for neuronal differentiation by expressing a set of well-defined genes related to adult stem cells niches and neuronal fate decision. Under the influence of neurotrophic factors, some of these progenitors gave rise to neuropeptide-expressing cells and protein zero-expressing Schwann cells. In a 5-bromo-2′-deoxyuridine chasing study, we showed that these progenitors likely originate from satellite glial cells. Our study suggests that a subpopulation of glia in adult DRG is likely to be progenitors for neurons and glia and may play a role in neurogenesis after nerve injury. ©AlphaMed Press.