Nerve growth factor (NGF) binding to cellular receptors is required for the survival of some neural cells. In contrast to TrkA, the high-affinity NGF receptor that transduces NGF signals for survival and differentiation, the function of the low-affinity NGF receptor, p75NGFR, remains uncertain. Expression of p75NGFR induced neural cell death constitutively when p75NGFR was unbound; binding by NGF or monoclonal antibody, however, inhibited cell death induced by p75NGFR. Thus, expression of p75NGFR may explain the dependence of some neural cells on NGF for survival. These findings also suggest that p75NGFR has some functional similarities to other members of a superfamily of receptors that include tumor necrosis factor receptors, Fas (Apo-1), and CD40.