Mutations that alter dynein function are associated with neurodegenerative diseases, but it is not known why defects in dynein-dependent transport impair neuronal survival. Here we show that dynein function in axons is selectively required for the survival of neurons that depend on target-derived neurotrophins. Stimulation of axon terminals with neurotrophins causes internalization of neurotrophin receptors (Trks). Using real-time imaging of fluorescently tagged Trks, we show that dynein is required for rapid transport of internalized, activated receptors from axon terminals to remote cell bodies. When dynein-based transport is inhibited, neurotrophin stimulation of axon terminals does not support survival. These studies indicate that defects in dynein-based transport reduce trafficking of activated Trks and thereby obstruct the prosurvival effect of target-derived trophic factors, leading to degeneration of target-dependent neurons.