Neurotrophins regulate development, maintenance, and function of vertebrate nervous systems. Neurotrophins activate two different classes of receptors, the Trk family of receptor tyrosine kinases and p75NTR, a member of the TNF receptor superfamily. Through these, neurotrophins activate many signaling pathways, including those mediated by ras and members of the cdc-42/ras/rho G protein families, and the MAP kinase, PI-3 kinase, and Jun kinase cascades. During development, limiting amounts of neurotrophins function as survival factors to ensure a match between the number of surviving neurons and the requirement for appropriate target innervation. They also regulate cell fate decisions, axon growth, dendrite pruning, the patterning of innervation and the expression of proteins crucial for normal neuronal function, such as neurotransmitters and ion channels. These proteins also regulate many aspects of neural function. In the mature nervous system, they control synaptic function and synaptic plasticity, while continuing to modulate neuronal survival.