Lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) is a growth factor-like lipid that produces many cellular responses. These responses, including actin cytoskeletal rearrangements, cell proliferation and inhibition of gap junction communication, have been documented in many cell types over the last 2 decades. Both non-receptor and receptor-mediated mechanisms had been implicated to explain these responses. A clear advance in this field was the cloning and functional identification of LPA receptors, and there are currently three high-affinity members, LPA1, LPA2 and LPA3 (synonymous with orphan receptor names edg-2, edg-4 and edg-7, respectively). Here we review the gene structure, expression and functions of LPA receptors. We also discuss the in vivo roles mediated by a single LPA receptor type, based on studies of the nervous system, a major locus of LPA receptor expression.