Neurotrophic factors are essential for neuronal survival and function. Recent data have demonstrated that the product of the tyrosine kinase trk proto-oncogene binds NGF and is a component of the high affinity NGF receptor. Analysis of the trkB gene product, gp145trkB, in NIH 3T3 cells indicates that this tyrosine kinase receptor is rapidly phosphorylated on tyrosine residues upon exposure to the NGF-related neurotrophic factors BDNF and NT-3. Furthermore, gp145trkB specifically binds BDNF and NT-3 in NIH 3T3 cells and in hippocampal cells, but does not bind NGF. Thus, the trk family of receptors are likely to be important signal transducers of NGF-related trophic signals in the formation and maintenance of neuronal circuits.