Dendritic arbor development of subventricular zone-derived interneurons is a critical step in their integration into functional circuits of the postnatal olfactory bulb. However, the mechanism and molecular control of this process remain unknown. In this study, we have developed a culture model where dendritic development of purified subventricular zone cells proceeds under serum-free conditions in the absence of added growth factors and non-neural cells. We demonstrate that the large majority of these cells in culture express GABA and elaborate dendritic arbors with spine-like protrusions but they do not possess axons. These neurons expressed receptors for neurotrophins including p75, TrkB and TrkC but not TrkA. Application of exogenous neurotrophins, including brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), neurotrophin-3 (NT3) and nerve growth factor (NGF), to cultures stimulated dendritic growth and led to more complex dendritic arbors during the initial 3 days in culture. Our results suggest that these effects are independent of Trk receptors and mediated by the p75/ceramide signaling pathway. We also show that brain-derived neurotrophic factor is the only neurotrophin that is able to influence late-phase dendritic development via TrkB receptor activation. These results suggest that dendritic arbor development of subventricular zone-derived cells may be regulated by neurotrophins through the activation of p75 and the TrkB receptor signaling pathways in a sequentially defined temporal pattern.