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Hum Mol Genet. 1998 Nov;7(12):1873-86.

Analysis of the human GDNF gene reveals an inducible promoter, three exons, a triplet repeat within the 3'-UTR and alternative splice products.

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  • 1Department of Medical Genetics, University of Munich, Goethestrasse 29, 80336 Munich, Germany.


Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), a distant member of the TGF-beta superfamily, is a survival factor for various neurons, making it a potential therapeutic agent for neurodegenerative disorders. Here we present the genomic structure and characterization of the promoter of the human GDNF (hGDNF) gene. It contains three exons coding for a cDNA of 4.6 kb including large 5'- and 3'-untranslated regions (UTRs). The 3'-UTR contains a polymorphic AGG repeat that appears not to be expanded in patients suffering from different neurodegenerative disorders. RT-PCR results in at least three different hGDNF transcripts including one that lacks exon 2. Transient expression experiments reveal that exon 2 is essential for proper cellular processing to yield a secreted form of hGDNF, whereas expression of exon 3 alone is sufficient to code for a mature form of hGDNF retained within the cell. Our data show that the hGDNF gene is driven by a TATA-containing promoter preceding exon 1. A second promoter element has been mapped to a region 5' of exon 2. Both promoters are in close proximity to CpG islands covering exons 1 and 2. Using luciferase as a reporter gene, the TATA-containing hGDNF promoter facilitates a 20- to 40-fold increase in transcription when compared with a corresponding promoterless construct, whereas the second promoter confers only weak activity. Furthermore, fibroblast growth factor 2, tetradecanoyl 12-phorbol acetate, an inflammatory agent, and cAMP increase promoter activity, suggesting that GDNF transcriptional regulation is a target of exogenous signals.

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