Target-derived neurotrophic factors are assumed to regulate motoneuron cell death during development but remain unspecified. Motoneuron cell death in the spinal nucleus of the bulbocavernosus (SNB) of rats extends postnatally and is controlled by androgens. We exploited these features of the SNB system to identify endogenously produced trophic factors regulating motoneuron survival. Newborn female rat pups were treated with the androgen, testosterone propionate, or the oil vehicle alone. In addition, females received trophic factor antagonists delivered either into the perineum (the site of SNB target muscles) or systemically. Fusion molecules that bind and sequester the neurotrophins (trkA-IgG, trkB-IgG, and trkC-IgG) were used to block activation of neurotrophin receptors, and AADH-CNTF was used to antagonize signaling through the ciliary neurotrophic factor receptor-alpha (CNTFRalpha). An acute blockade of trkB, trkC, or CNTFRalpha prevented the androgenic sparing of SNB motoneurons when antagonists were delivered to the perineum. Trophic factor antagonists did not significantly reduce SNB motoneuron number when higher doses were injected systemically. These findings demonstrate a requirement for specific, endogenously produced trophic factors in the androgenic rescue of SNB motoneurons and further suggest that trophic factor interactions at the perineum play a crucial role in masculinization of this neural system.