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J Neural Transm Suppl. 2003;(65):197-203.

Growth/differentiation factor-15 (GDF-15), a novel member of the TGF-beta superfamily, promotes survival of lesioned mesencephalic dopaminergic neurons in vitro and in vivo and is induced in neurons following cortical lesioning.

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  • 1Neuroanatomy and Interdisciplinary Center for Neurosciences (IZN), University of Heidelberg, Germany.


This review summarizes the evidence that GDF-15, a recently discovered member of the TGF-beta superfamily, is a trophic factor for nigral dopamine neurons, both in vitro and in vivo. Specifically, GDF-15 promotes survival and differentiation of embryonic rat dopaminergic neurons, but not of other neuron populations, with the exception of serotonergic raphe neurons. The neurotrophic effect of GDF-15 seems to be direct and not mediated through glial cells. In the rat 6-hydroxydopamine model of parkinsonism GDF-15 rescues intoxicated dopaminergic neurons and abolishes abnormal turning behavior. The most prominent site of synthesis of GDF-15 within the brain is the choroid plexus, which secretes GDF-15 into the cerebrospinal fluid, from where the molecule can penetrate through the ependymal layer into the parenchyma. Analysis of mouse mutants lacking GDF-15 will reveal whether the endogenous factor also has a role in promoting embryonic and protecting lesioned nigral dopamine neurons.

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