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Dev Biol. 1998 Dec 15;204(2):385-406.

Age-dependent differences in the effects of GDNF and NT-3 on the development of neurons and glia from neural crest-derived precursors immunoselected from the fetal rat gut: expression of GFRalpha-1 in vitro and in vivo.

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Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology,Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, New York, 10032, USA.


No enteric neurons or glia develop in the gut below the rostral foregut in mice lacking glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) or Ret. We analyzed the nature and age dependence of the effects of GDNF and, for comparison, those of NT-3, on the in vitro development of the precursors of enteric neurons and glia. Positive and negative immunoselection with antibodies to p75(NTR) were used to isolate crest-derived and crest-depleted populations of cells from the fetal rat bowel at E12, 14, and 16. Cells were typed immunocytochemically. GDNF stimulated the proliferation of nestin-expressing precursor cells isolated at E12, but not at E14-16. GDNF promoted the development of peripherin-expressing neurons (E12 >> E14-16) and expression of TrkC. GDNF inhibited expression of S-100-expressing glia at E14-16. NT-3 did not affect cells isolated at E12, never stimulated precursors to proliferate, and promoted glial as well as neuronal development at E14-16. GFRalpha-1 was expressed both by crest- and non-crest-derived cells, although only crest-derived cells anchored GFRalpha-1 and GFRalpha-2 (GFRalpha-1 >> GFRalpha-2). GDNF increased the number of neurons anchoring GFRalpha-1. GFRalpha-1 is immunocytochemically detectable in neurons of the E13 intestine and persists in adult neurons of both plexuses. We suggest that GDNF stimulates the proliferation of an early (E12) NT-3-insensitive precursor common to enteric neurons and glia; by E14, this common precursor is replaced by specified NT-3-responsive neuronal and glial progenitors. GDNF exerts a neurotrophic, but not a mitogenic, effect on the neuronal progenitor. The glial progenitor is not maintained by GDNF.

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