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Exp Neurol. 1993 Dec;124(2):401-12.

Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor is expressed in the developing but not adult striatum and stimulates developing dopamine neurons in vivo.

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Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden.


The potential role of glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) as a trophic molecule for midbrain dopamine neurons was examined using two different approaches: in situ hybridization and intraocular transplantation. The presence of mRNA for GDNF was noted in striatal and ventral limbic dopaminergic target areas in the developing (E20-P7) rat, but not the adult rat. Signals were also found in nondopaminergic areas during maturation, such as the cerebellar anlage, spinal cord, and thalamus. Lesions of the nigrostriatal pathway in neonatal or adult rats, using 6-hydroxydopamine injected into the medial forebrain bundle, did not elicit upregulation of mRNA for GDNF. Grafts of fetal ventral mesencephalon in the anterior eye chamber were exposed to repeated injections of GDNF, which elicited a marked and dose-dependent increase in transplant volume. A low (0.1 microgram/eye) and high (1 microgram/eye) dose of GDNF both led to a somewhat larger mean area of dopamine fiber outgrowth into host irides. In the transplants, cell counts of tyrosine hydroxylase (TH)-immunoreactive neurons revealed a doubling of cell numbers in the low-dose group and about four times as many cells in the high-GDNF-dose group compared to controls. Moreover, the density of TH-immunoreactive nerve fibers was markedly and significantly higher in transplants treated with the high GDNF dose. Since the volumes of these transplants were also larger, the total amount of both TH-positive cells and TH-positive nerve fibers was many-fold greater in the high-GDNF group than that in the controls. Taken together, these data support the concept that GDNF functions as a dopaminotrophic factor in vivo.

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