Growing evidence has shown that the p75 neurotrophin receptor (p75NTR) may play important roles in controlling neuronal survival or cell apoptosis within the central nervous system in development, and in pathological or neural injury. Recent studies have further revealed that p75NTR acts as a "molecular signal switch" that determines cell death or survival by three processes. First, pro-nerve growth factor (proNGF) triggers cell apoptosis by its high affinity binding to p75NTR, while NGF induces neuronal survival with low-affinity binding. Second, p75NTR mediates cell death by combining with co-receptor sortilin, whereas it promotes neuronal survival through combination with proNGF. Third, release of the intracellular domain chopper or cleavaged "short p75NTR" can independently initiate neuronal apoptosis. We have identified the cell self-destructive proNGF-p75NTR-sortilin signalling apparatus assembled in ventral tier dopamine neurons of the substantia nigra pars compacta, suggesting that p75NTR signalling might be involved in selective cell death mechanisms of substantia nigra neurons or disease progression of Parkinson's disease (PD). In addition, experimental manipulation of p75NTR benefited cell survival of cholinergic or motor neurons and improved disease progression of the neurodegenerative diseases Alzheimer's disease and Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The proNGF-p75NTR-sortilin signalling complex may thus provide new target for neuroprotection of substantia nigra neurons and the therapeutic treatment of PD.