Target-derived neurotrophins are required for the growth and survival of innervating neurons. When released by postsynaptic targets, neurotrophins bind receptors (Trks) on nerve terminals. Activated Trks signal locally within distal axons and retrogradely through long axons to distant cell bodies in order to promote gene expression and survival. Although the mechanism of retrograde neurotrophin signaling is not fully elucidated, considerable evidence supports a model in which the vesicular transport of neurotrophin-Trk complexes transmits a survival signal that involves PI3K and Erk5. Other, non-vesicular modes of retrograde signaling are likely to function in parallel. Recent studies highlight the importance of the location of stimulation as a determinant of Trk signaling. Defects in signaling from distal axons to cell bodies may be causally related to neurodegenerative disorders.