We have studied the effect of human recombinant neurotrophin-4/5 (NT- 4/5) on the survival of developing PNS neurons from embryonic mice and chickens. NT-4/5 transiently supported mouse NGF-dependent trigeminal and jugular neurons at early stages of target field innervation and mouse brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)-dependent no-dose neurons during the phase of naturally occurring cell death. NT-4/5 was as potent as BDNF in supporting the survival of these neuronal populations. Surprisingly, NT-4/5 was 3 orders of magnitude less potent than BDNF as a survival factor for early chick dorsomedial trigeminal sensory neurons and did not support the survival of chick BDNF- dependent trigeminal mesencephalic or ventrolateral trigeminal sensory neurons at any of the developmental stages tested. Thus, NT-4/5 is a survival factor for certain embryonic mouse cranial sensory neurons. It is the first species-specific neurotrophin to be identified and it can discriminate at high concentrations between different BDNF-responsive chick neurons.