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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1995 Aug 29;92(18):8274-8.

Retrograde axonal transport of glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor in the adult nigrostriatal system suggests a trophic role in the adult.

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Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden.


The recently cloned, distant member of the transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) family, glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), has potent trophic actions on fetal mesencephalic dopamine neurons. GDNF also has protective and restorative activity on adult mesencephalic dopaminergic neurons and potently protects motoneurons from axotomy-induced cell death. However, evidence for a role for endogenous GDNF as a target-derived trophic factor in adult midbrain dopaminergic circuits requires documentation of specific transport from the sites of synthesis in the target areas to the nerve cell bodies themselves. Here, we demonstrate that GDNF is retrogradely transported by mesencephalic dopamine neurons of the nigrostriatal pathway. The pattern of retrograde transport following intrastriatal injections indicates that there may be subpopulations of neurons that are GDNF responsive. Retrograde axonal transport of biologically active 125I-labeled GDNF was inhibited by an excess of unlabeled GDNF but not by an excess of cytochrome c. Specificity was further documented by demonstrating that another TGF-beta family member, TGF-beta 1, did not appear to affect retrograde transport. Retrograde transport was also demonstrated by immunohistochemistry by using intrastriatal injections of unlabeled GDNF. GDNF immunoreactivity was found specifically in dopamine nerve cell bodies of the substantia nigra pars compacta distributed in granules in the soma and proximal dendrites. Our data implicate a specific receptor-mediated uptake mechanism operating in the adult. Taken together, the present findings suggest that GDNF acts endogenously as a target-derived physiological survival/maintenance factor for dopaminergic neurons.

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