We have previously shown that neurons in the basal forebrain colocalize the neurotrophin receptor p75NGFR and estrogen receptors. The present study was designed to examine (1) if neural neurotrophin targets respond to estrogen as a general phenotypic feature and (2) if NGF receptor mRNAs are regulated by estrogen, using a prototypical target of NGF, the dorsal root ganglion (DRG) (sensory) neuron. We demonstrate, for the first time, the presence of estrogen receptor mRNA and protein (binding sites) in adult female rat DRG. Moreover, estrogen receptor mRNA expression, while present in DRG neurons from both the ovariectomized (OVX; estrogen deficient) and intact female rat, was downregulated, as in the adult CNS, during proestrus (high estrogen levels) and in OVX animals replaced with proestrus levels of estrogen, as compared to OVX controls. In contrast, although the mRNAs for the NGF receptors p75NGFR and trkA were also expressed in DRG neurons from OVX and intact animals, expression of both NGF receptor mRNAs was upregulated in sensory neurons during proestrus, as compared to the OVX condition. Estrogen replacement, on the other hand, resulted in a transient downregulation of p75NGFR mRNA and a time-dependent upregulation of trkA mRNA. Estrogen regulation of NGF receptor mRNA in adult peripheral neural targets of the neurotrophins supports the hypothesis that estrogen may regulate neuronal sensitivity to neurotrophins such as NGF and may be an important mediator of neurotrophin actions in normal neural function and following neural trauma.