Neurotrophins are critical for the survival of neurons during development and insufficient access to neurotrophins later in life may contribute to the loss of neurons in neurodegenerative disease, spinal cord injury, and stroke. The prolyl hydroxylase inhibitors ethyl 3,4-dihydroxybenzoic acid (DHB) and dimethyloxalylglycine (DMOG) were shown to inhibit cell death in a model of neurotrophin deprivation that involves depriving sympathetic neurons of nerve growth factor (NGF). Here we show that treatment with DMOG or DHB reverses the decline in 2-deoxyglucose uptake caused by NGF withdrawal and suppresses the NGF deprivation-induced accumulation of reactive oxygen species. Neither DMOG nor DHB prevented death when NGF deprivation was carried out under conditions of glucose starvation, and both compounds proved toxic to NGF-maintained neurons deprived of glucose, suggesting that their survival-promoting effects are mediated through the preservation of glucose metabolism. DHB and DMOG are well known activators of hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF), but whether activation of HIF underlies their survival-promoting effects is not known. Using gene disruption and RNA interference, we provide evidence that DMOG and, to a lesser extent, DHB require HIF-2alpha expression to inhibit NGF deprivation-induced death. Furthermore, suppressing basal HIF-2alpha expression, but not HIF-1alpha, in NGF-maintained neurons is sufficient to promote cell death. These results implicate HIF-2alpha in the neuroprotective mechanisms of prolyl hydroxylase inhibitors and in an endogenous cell survival pathway activated by NGF in developing neurons.