Neurotrophins are a small family of dimeric secretory proteins in vertebrate neurons with a broad spectrum of functions. They are generated as pro-proteins with a functionality that is distinct from the proteolytically processed form. The cellular responses of neurotrophins are mediated by three different types of receptor proteins, the receptor tyrosine kinases of the Trk family, the neurotrophin receptor p75NTR, which is a member of the tumor necrosis factor receptor (TNFR) superfamily, and sortilin, previously characterized as neurotensin receptor. Recent studies have revealed an intriguing pattern: neurotrophins can elicit opposing signals utilising their variable configuration and different receptor types. BioEssays 28: 583–594, 2006. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.