In the present work, we studied the effects of several growth factors on survival and proliferation of freshly isolated neural progenitors expressing the polysialylated form of neural cell adhesion molecule (PSA-NCAM). Cells were obtained from postnatal day 2 rat forebrain, using isolation method. We found that (1) insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) exerts a powerful survival effect by inhibiting apoptotic cell death, (2) epidermal growth factor (EGF) strongly increases cell proliferation, (3) the combination of IGF-1 plus EGF promotes cellular expansion, (4) basic fibroblast growth factor displays only a weak mitogenic effect, and (5) platelet-derived growth factor-AA (PDGF-AA) has no effect on cell survival and proliferation. These results suggest that the postnatal PSA-NCAM(+) progenitors characterized in the present work may represent a transitional stage, between the embryonic EGF-responsive neural progenitors and the postnatal PSA-NCAM(+) progenitors already described that are PDGF-responsive. For these "early PSA-NCAM(+) progenitors," insulin-like growth factor 1 and EGF seem to play a pivotal role in the control of cell death and cell proliferation.