Motoneuron dependence on target-derived trophic factors during development is well established, with loss of trophic support leading to the death of these cells. A complete understanding of the intracellular signal transduction machinery associated with extracellular survival signals requires the examination of individual pathways in various cellular and environmental contexts. In cells deprived of trophic support, and hence compromised for survival, phosphoinositide-3-kinase (PI3K) is decreased when compared with healthy cells supplied with trophic support. Extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) signaling is dramatically decreased in deprived cells. We have examined the role of these two pathways to understand how changes in their activity regulate motoneuron survival and death. Pharmacological inhibition of PI3K attenuated motoneuron survival and was important in the regulation of Bcl-2 serine phosphorylation, limited release of cytochrome c into the cytoplasm and caspase activation. Bax translocation from cytoplasm to mitochondria was not altered when PI3K was inhibited. High levels of ERK1/2 inhibition robustly attenuated motoneuron survival in cells supplied with trophic support, whereas moderate inhibition of ERK1/2 activation had little effect. ERK1/2 inhibition in these cells decreased Bcl-2 phosphorylation and resulted in release of cytochrome c from the mitochondria. Bax translocation and caspase activation were not affected by ERK1/2 inhibition. These data reveal that changes in PI3K and ERK1/2 signaling lead to individual and overlapping effects on the cell-death machinery. Characterizing the role of these pathways is critical for a fundamental understanding of the development and degeneration of specific neuronal populations.