A role for neurotrophins in mature primary sensory neurons persists, extending beyond that of promoting survival during development, to one of maintaining phenotypic and functional properties. Many adaptive changes that occur after peripheral axotomy and in axonal repair are believed to be influenced by altered availability of neurotrophic molecules to the neuron in this state. Indeed, administration of exogenous nerve growth factor counteracts many degenerative changes observed in the subpopulation of axotomized neurons which are nerve growth factor-responsive. Current efforts focus on defining actions of other neurotrophins (brain-derived neurotrophic factor, neurotrophin-3 and neurotrophin-4/5) in nerve injury and repair, and the intracellular pathways involved. Knowledge gained from work focusing on nerve growth factor and neurotrophin-3 in supporting maintenance or modulation of aspects of the differentiated state of adult primary sensory neurons is discussed.