Neurturin (NRTN) and glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) are members of a family of trophic factors with similar actions in vitro on certain neuronal classes. Retrograde transport of GDNF and NRTN was compared in peripheral sensory, sympathetic, and motor neurons to determine whether in vivo these factors are transported selectively by different neuronal populations. After sciatic nerve injections, NRTN was transported by sensory neurons of the dorsal root ganglion (DRG). Competition studies demonstrated only limited cross-competition between NRTN and GDNF, indicating selective receptor-mediated transport of these factors. By using immunohistochemistry, we identified two populations of NRTN-transporting DRG neurons: a major population of small, RET-positive, IB4-positive, non-TrkA-expressing neurons that also show the ability to transport GDNF and a minor population of calretinin-expressing neurons that fail to transport GDNF. Spinal motor neurons in the adult showed relatively less ability to transport NRTN than to transport GDNF, although NRTN prevented the cell death of neonatal motor neurons in a manner very similar to GDNF (Yan et al., 1995) and persephin (PSPN) (Milbrandt et al., 1998). Last, NRTN, like GDNF, was not transported to sympathetic neurons of the adult superior cervical ganglion (SCG) after injection into the anterior eye chamber. These data reveal a high degree of functional selectivity of GDNF family receptor-α (GFRα) coreceptor subtypes for NRTN and GDNF in vivo.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9322-9331
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 1 1999


  • DRG
  • Development
  • Motor neurons
  • Neurotrophic factors
  • RET
  • TrkA


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