Gene deletion of neurotrophin-3 (NT3) results in severe sensory and sympathetic deficits that are incompatible with postnatal life in mice. We have now addressed the question of whether NT3 plays a role in the postnatal animal. An antiserum specific for NT3 and capable of blocking the survival effect of the factor in vitro has been generated and given to neonatal rats. Antiserum administration during either or both of the first 2 postnatal weeks resulted in a 54-74% reduction in the size of the superior cervical ganglia, reflecting a loss of as many as 80% of all neurons, with a predominant effect on the neuropeptide Y containing subpopulation. The immunoreactivities of NPY, tyrosine hydroxylase, and p75 low affinity NGF receptor in nerve terminals within the mesenteric artery were also reduced, whereas that of the sensory neuron neuropeptide, calcitonin gene related peptide was less affected. These results demonstrate that the majority of sympathetic neurons of the neonatal rat are dependent on endogenous NT3 for their survival at a time when they are also dependent on another survival factor, NGF, thus apparently providing a clear example of a population of neurons requiring for their survival the simultaneous supply of more than one trophic factor.