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Endocrinology. 1998 Aug;139(8):3613-9.

Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor differentially stimulates ret mutants associated with the multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 syndromes and Hirschsprung's disease.

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Centro di Endocrinologia ed Oncologia Sperimentale del CNR, Dipartimento de Biologia e Patologia Cellulare e Molecolare, Facolt√° di Medicina e Chirurgia, Universit√° di Napoli Federico II, Naples, Italy.


Ret is a receptor tyrosine kinase involved in several neoplastic and developmental diseases affecting the thyroid gland and tissues of neuroectodermal origin. Different ret mutations are associated with different disease phenotypes. Gain-of-function of ret is caused by gene rearrangements in thyroid papillary carcinomas and by point mutations in multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) type 2A syndrome (MEN2A), in familial medullary thyroid carcinoma (FMTC), and in the more severe MEN2B syndrome. Conversely, Hirschsprung's disease (HSCR) is associated with loss of function of ret. Recently, it has been shown that glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), by binding to the accessory molecule GDNFR-alpha, acts as a functional ligand of Ret and stimulates its tyrosine kinase and biological activity. To ascertain whether the biological effects of ret mutations are modulated by GDNF, we have investigated the responsiveness to GDNF of ret mutants in cell lines coexpressing GDNFR-alpha and MEN2A-, MEN2B-, FMTC-, or HSCR-associated ret mutants. Here, we show that triggering of GDNF affected only ret/MEN2B, i.e. it stimulated ret/MEN2B mitogenic and kinase activities, as well as its ability to phosphorylate Shc, a bona fide Ret substrate. In contrast, ret mutants associated with MEN2A or FMTC (carrying Cys634 or Cys620 mutations) were unresponsive to GDNF. HSCR mutations, by affecting either the extracellular or the intracellular Ret domain, impaired responsiveness to GDNF. These data suggest that the phenotype of human diseases caused by ret mutations can be differentially influenced by GDNF.

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