A structural profile-based computational screen was used to identify neuropoietin (NP), a new cytokine. The np gene is localized in tandem with the cardiotrophin-1 gene on mouse chromosome 7. NP shares structural and functional features with ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF), cardiotrophin-1, and cardiotrophin-like cytokine. It acts through a membrane receptor complex comprising CNTF receptor-alpha component (CNTFRalpha), gp130, and leukemia inhibitory factor receptor to activate signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 signaling pathway. NP is highly expressed in embryonic neuroepithelia. Strikingly, CNTFRalpha, but not its alternate ligands, CNTF and cardiotrophin-like cytokine, is expressed at the same developmental stages. NP is also observed in retina and to a lesser extent in skeletal muscle. Moreover, NP could sustain the in vitro survival of embryonic motor neurons and could increase the proliferation of neural precursors when associated to epidermal growth factor and fibroblast growth factor 2. Thus, NP is a new ligand for CNTFRalpha, with important implications for murine nervous system development.