The survival and functional maintenance of spinal motoneurons, both during the period of developmental cell death and in adulthood, have been shown to be dependent on trophic factors. In vitro experiments have previously been used to identify several survival factors for motoneurons, including CNTF, LIF, and members of the neurotrophin, FGF, and IGF gene families. Some of these factors have also been shown to be active in vivo, either on chick motoneurons during embryonic development or on lesioned facial and spinal motoneurons of the newborn rat. Here we demonstrate that lesioned newborn rat facial motoneurons can be rescued by NT-4/5, IGF-I, and LIF. Furthermore, in contrast to chick motoneurons, the survival of isolated embryonic rat motoneurons can be maintained by the neurotrophins BDNF, NT-3, and NT-4/5. IGF-I and FGF-5 were also active in this system, each supporting more than 50% of the originally plated neurons. The responsiveness of motoneurons to multiple factors in vitro and in vivo suggests that motoneuron survival and function are regulated by the coordinated actions of members of different gene families.