Neuronal growth and remodelling are guided by both intracellular gene programs and extracellular stimuli. The growth cone is one site where the effects of these extrinsic and intrinsic factors converge upon the mechanical determinants of cell shape. We review the growth cone as a transduction device, converting extracellular signals into mechanical forces. A variety of soluble, extracellular matrix and membrane bound molecules control growth cone behavior. In addition, GAP-43 is discussed as a possible component of the intraneuronal gene program which modulates growth cone activity. The GTP-binding protein, Go, is a major growth cone membrane protein that may transduce signals not only from outside the cell, but from within as well. This may provide a molecular site in the growth cone for the coordination of a genetic growth program with environmental signals.