Autonomic neuron development is controlled by a network of transcription factors, which is induced by bone morphogenetic protein signalling in neural crest progenitor cells. This network intersects with a transcriptional program in migratory neural crest cells that pre-specifies autonomic neuron precursor cells. Recent findings demonstrate that the transcription factors acting in the initial specification and differentiation of sympathetic neurons are also important for the proliferation of progenitors and immature neurons during neurogenesis. Elimination of Phox2b, Hand2 and Gata3 in differentiated neurons affects the expression of subtype-specific and/or generic neuronal properties or neuron survival. Taken together, transcription factors previously shown to act in initial neuron specification and differentiation display a much broader spectrum of functions, including control of neurogenesis and the maintenance of subtype characteristics and survival of mature neurons.