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Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) has potent trophic effects on adult sensory neurons after nerve injury and is one of a family of proteins that includes neurturin, persephin, and artemin. Sensitivity to these factors is conferred by a receptor complex consisting of a ligand binding domain (GFRalpha1-GFRalpha4) and a signal transducing domain RET. We have investigated the normal expression of GDNF family receptor components within sensory neurons and the response to nerve injury. In normal rats, RET and GFRalpha1 were expressed in a subpopulation of both small- and large-diameter afferents projecting through the sciatic nerve [60 and 40% of FluoroGold (FG)-labeled cells, respectively]. GFRalpha2 and GFRalpha3 were both expressed principally within small-diameter DRG cells (30 and 40% of FG-labeled cells, respectively). Two weeks after sciatic axotomy, the expression of GFRalpha2 was markedly reduced (to 12% of sciatic afferents). In contrast, the proportion of sciatic afferents that expressed GFRalpha1 increased (to 66% of sciatic afferents) so that virtually all large-diameter afferents expressed this receptor component, and the expression of GFRalpha3 also increased (to 66% of sciatic afferents) so that almost all of the small-diameter afferents expressed this receptor component after axotomy. There was little change in RET expression. The changes in the proportions of DRG cells expressing different receptor components were mirrored by alterations in the total RNA levels within the DRG. The changes in GFRalpha1 and GFRalpha2 expression after axotomy could be largely reversed by treatment with GDNF.


Journal article


J Neurosci

Publication Date





427 - 437


Animals, Axotomy, Drosophila Proteins, Gene Expression, Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Receptors, In Situ Hybridization, Ligation, Male, Nerve Growth Factors, Nerve Regeneration, Nerve Tissue Proteins, Neurofilament Proteins, Oligonucleotide Probes, Phosphorylation, Posterior Horn Cells, Proto-Oncogene Proteins, Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-ret, RNA, Messenger, Rats, Rats, Wistar, Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases, Sciatic Nerve, Up-Regulation