The Eph receptors are the largest known family of receptor tyrosine kinases. Initially all of them were identified as orphan receptors without known ligands, and their specific functions were not well understood. During the past few years, a corresponding family of ligands has been identified, called the ephrins, and specific functions have now been identified in neural development. The ephrins and Eph receptors are implicated as positional labels that may guide the development of neural topographic maps. They have also been implicated in pathway selection by axons, the guidance of cell migration, and the establishment of regional pattern in the nervous system. The ligands are anchored to cell surfaces, and most of the functions so far identified can be interpreted as precise guidance of cell or axon movement. This large family of ligands and receptors may make a major contribution to the accurate spatial patterning of connections and cell position in the nervous system.