Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) promotes the survival of two populations of CNS neurons: motoneurons and midbrain dopaminergic neurons. To see whether GDNF promotes the survival of PNS neurons, we studied embryonic chicken autonomic and sensory neurons in culture. We show that GDNF promotes the survival of sympathetic, parasympathetic, proprioceptive, enteroceptive, and small and large cutaneous sensory neurons. Whereas sympathetic, parasympathetic, and proprioceptive neurons become less responsive to GDNF with age, enteroceptive and cutaneous sensory neurons become more responsive. GDNF mRNA is expressed in the tissues innervated by these neurons, and developmental changes in its expression in several tissues mirror the changing responses of the innervating neurons to GDNF. These results show that GDNF promotes the survival of multiple PNS and CNS neurons and suggest that GDNF may be important for regulating the survival of various populations of neurons at different stages of their development.