Chick ciliary ganglion neurons have nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (AChRs) that mediate synaptic transmission through the ganglion. A soluble component of about 50 kDa from embryonic eye tissue, the synaptic target of the ganglion, increases the development of ACh sensitivity by the neurons 10-fold over a 1-week period in culture. The increased sensitivity does not arise from a change in agonist affinity or esterase activity. Both the basal ACh response obtained in the absence of the 50-kDa component and the elevated responses obtained with it can be inhibited by neuronal bungarotoxin (nBgt) but not by alpha-bungarotoxin (alpha Bgt). Increases of less than twofold are observed for the binding of anti-AChR monoclonal antibody 35 (mAb 35), nBgt, and alpha Bgt to the neurons under these conditions. Extract fractions containing the 50-kDa component also enable the neurons to enhance their ACh responses through a cAMP-dependent mechanism. Either the 50-kDa fraction induces the appearance of a new type of AChR regulated by cAMP, or it alters the function of existing AChRs. The 50- kDa fraction produces no change in neuronal growth but can increase GABA responses sixfold, indicating that its effects are not confined to AChRs. It is not clear whether a single molecular species is responsible for the diverse regulatory effects or whether several types of active components are present in the fraction. The component which enhances ACh sensitivity is trypsin-sensitive and heat-labile, as expected for a protein. The component may be widely distributed since the 50-kDa fraction from a number of tissues can increase the ACh response. The fraction from eye tissue, however, has a specific activity 5–10 times greater than that of the liver fraction. A wide distribution would suggest multiple targets and roles for the component during development.