The neurotrophic factors that influence the development and function of the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system are obscure. Recently, neurturin has been found to provide trophic support to neurons of the cranial parasympathetic ganglion. Here we show that GDNF signaling via the RET/GFRα1 complex is crucial for the development of cranial parasympathetic ganglia including the submandibular, sphenopalatine and otic ganglia. GDNF is required early for proliferation and/or migration of the neuronal precursors for the sphenopalatine and otic ganglia. Neurturin exerts its effect later and is required for further development and maintenance of these neurons. This switch in ligand dependency during development is at least partly governed by the altered expression of GFRα receptors, as evidenced by the predominant expression of GFRα2 in these neurons after ganglion formation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4877-4889
Number of pages13
Issue number22
StatePublished - 2000


  • Cranial parasympathetic neurons
  • GDNF
  • Gene targeting
  • Mouse
  • Neurturin


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