The olfactory epithelium (OE) of the mammal is uniquely suited as a model system for studying how neurogenesis and cell death interact to regulate neuron number during development and regeneration. To identify factors regulating neurogenesis and neuronal death in the OE, and to determine the mechanisms by which these factors act, investigators studied OE using two major experimental paradigms: tissue culture of OE; and ablation of the olfactory bulb or severing the olfactory nerve in adult animals, procedures that induce cell death and a subsequent surge of neurogenesis in the OE in vivo. These studies characterized the cellular stages in the olfactory receptor neuron (ORN) lineage, leading to the realization that at least three distinct stages of proliferating neuronal precursor cells are employed in generating ORNs. The identification of a number of factors that act to regulate proliferation and survival of ORNs and their precursors suggests that these multiple developmental stages may serve as control points at which cell number is regulated by extrinsic factors. In vivo surgical studies, which have shown that all cell types in the neuronal lineage of the OE undergo apoptotic cell death, support this idea. These studies, and the possible coregulation of neuronal birth and apoptosis in the OE, are discussed.