Paclitaxel (PT)-induced neurotoxicity is a significant problem associated with successful treatment of cancers. Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) is a neurotrophic factor and plays an important role in promoting axonal growth from dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons. Whether IGF-1 has protective effects on neurite growth, cell viability, neuronal apoptosis and neuronal phenotypes in DRG neurons with PT-induced neurotoxicity is still unclear. In this study, primary cultured rat DRG neurons were used to assess the effects of IGF-1 on DRG neurons with PT-induced neurotoxicity. The results showed that PT exposure caused neurite retraction in a dose-dependent manner. PT exposure caused a decrease of cell viability and an increase in the ratio of apoptotic cells which could be reversed by IGF-1. The percentage of calcitonin gene-related peptide immunoreactive (CGRP-IR) neurons and neurofilament (NF)-200-IR neurons, mRNA, and protein levels of CGRP and NF-200 decreased significantly after treatment with PT. IGF-1 administration had protective effects on CGRP-IR neurons, but not on NF-200-IR neurons. Either extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase (ERK1/2) inhibitor PD98059 or phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3 K) inhibitor LY294002 blocked the effect of IGF-1. The results imply that IGF-1 may attenuate apoptosis to improve neuronal cell viability and promote neurite growth of DRG neurons with PT-induced neurotoxicity. Moreover, these results support an important neuroprotective role of exogenous IGF-1 on distinct subpopulations of DRG neurons which is responsible for skin sensation. The effects of IGF-1 might be through ERK1/2 or PI3 K/Akt signaling pathways. These findings provide experimental evidence for IGF-1 administration to alleviate neurotoxicity of distinct subpopulations of DRG neurons induced by PT.