Neurotrophins are released from target tissues following neural innervation and bind to specific receptors situated on the nerve terminal plasma membrane. The neurotrophin-receptor complex undergoes retrograde axonal transport towards the cell soma, where it signals to the nucleus. This process allows neurotrophins to perform their numerous functions, which include the promotion of neuronal survival and the outgrowth of axons towards certain target tissues. The molecular events controlling each of the components of retrograde axonal transport are beginning to become defined. There is good evidence for the participation of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase, phosphatidylinositol 4-kinase and the actin cytoskeleton in neurotrophin retrograde axonal transport in vivo. It also appears that the retrograde motor protein dynein mediates the retrograde axonal transport in vivo of neurotrophins such as nerve growth factor. This review discusses the role of the neurotrophin receptors in binding and axonal transport, the endocytic processes required for neurotrophin internalization, the targeting and trafficking of neurotrophins, and the propagation of neurotrophin-induced signals along the axon.