The Egr proteins, Egr-1, Egr-2, Egr-3 and Egr-4, are closely related members of a subclass of immediate early gene-encoded, inducible transcription factors. They share a highly homologous DNA-binding domain which recognises an identical DNA response element. In addition, they have several less-well conserved structural features in common. As immediate early proteins, the Egr transcription factors are rapidly induced by diverse extracellular stimuli within the nervous system in a discretely controlled manner. The basal expression of the Egr proteins in the developing and adult rat brain and the induction of Egr proteins by neurotransmitter analogue stimulation, physiological mimetic and brain injury paradigms is reviewed. We review evidence indicating that Egr proteins are subject to tight differential control through diverse mechanisms at several levels of regulation. These include transcriptional, translational and post-translational (including glycosylation, phosphorylation and redox) mechanisms and protein-protein interaction. Ultimately the differentially co-ordinated Egr response may lead to discrete effects on target gene expression. Some of the known target genes of Egr proteins and functions of the Egr proteins in different cell types are also highlighted. Future directions for research into the control and function of the different Egr proteins are also explored.