Cell death plays an important role in regulating cell numbers in a wide variety of tissues during development and throughout life. Cell death can be triggered by changes in the levels of hormones and growth factors and is regulated by the expression of the tumour suppressor gene p53 in many cells. To determine if p53 plays a role in neuronal death resulting from neurotrophin deprivation, we studied the survival of neurons obtained from normal mouse embryos and embryos with a null mutation in the p53 gene. Embryonic sensory and sympathetic neurons from mutant embryos survived in response to the appropriate neurotrophin and died normally in the absence of neurotrophins. These results indicate that neurotrophin-deprived neurons die by a p53-independent pathway.