It is now well-established that an active cross-talk occurs between neurons and glial cells, in the adult as well as in the developing and regenerating nervous systems. These functional interactions not only actively modulate synaptic transmission, but also support neuronal growth and differentiation. We have investigated the possible existence of a reciprocal interaction between inner ear vestibular neurons and Schwann cells maintained in primary cultures. We show that ATP released by the extending vestibular axons elevates intracellular calcium levels within Schwann cells. Purinergic activation of the Schwann P2X(7) receptor induces the release of neurotrophin BDNF, which occurs via a regulated, tetanus-toxin sensitive, vesicular pathway. BDNF, in turn, is required by the vestibular neuron to support its own survival and growth. Given the massive release of ATP during tissue damage, cross-talk between vestibular neurons and Schwann cells could play a primary role during regeneration.