Activation of the p75 neurotrophin receptor leads to a variety of effects within the nervous system, including neuronal apoptosis. Both c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) and the tumor suppressor p53 have been reported to be critical for this receptor to induce cell death; however, the mechanisms by which p75 activates these pathways is undetermined. Here we report that the neurotrophin receptor interacting factor (NRIF) is necessary for p75-dependent JNK activation and apoptosis. Upon nerve growth factor withdrawal, nrif-/- sympathetic neurons underwent apoptosis, whereas p75-mediated death was completely abrogated. The lack of cell death correlated with a lack of JNK activation in the nrif-/- neurons, suggesting that NRIF is a selective mediator for p75-dependent JNK activation and apoptosis. Moreover, we document that NRIF expression is sufficient to induce cell death through a mechanism that requires p53. Taken together, these results establish NRIF as an essential component of the p75 apoptotic pathway.