The neurotrophic effects of neurturin (NRTN) on chick cranial ganglia were evaluated at various embryonic stages in vitro and related to its receptor expression. NRTN promoted the outgrowth and survival of ciliary ganglion neurons at early embryonic (E) stages (E6-E12), trigeminal ganglion neurons at midstages (E9-E16), and vestibular ganglion neurons at late stages (E12-E16). NRTN had no positive effects on cochlear ganglion neurons throughout development. In accordance with the time and order of onset in NRTN responsiveness, Ret protein was first detected in ciliary ganglia at E6, subsequently in trigeminal ganglia at E9, and in vestibular ganglia at E12. Ret was absent in E16 ciliary ganglia as well as in cochlear ganglia at all developmental stages that were tested. Exogenous application of retinoic acid induced NRTN responsiveness and Ret protein expression from E9 vestibular ganglion neurons, suggesting that retinoic acid can regulate Ret protein expression in peripheral sensory neurons in vitro. Ret was confined to the neuron cell body, whereas GFRα was localized predominantly in peripheral and central neurite processes. No noticeable change in GFRα expression was seen in any cranial ganglia throughout the developmental stages that were tested (E6-E16). These results demonstrate that NRTN exerts neurotrophic effects on different cranial ganglia at different developmental stages and that the onset and offset of NRTN responsiveness are regulated mainly by the spatiotemporal patterns of Ret, but not of GFRα receptors. The results also substantiate the recently emerging view that NRTN may be an essential target- derived neurotrophic factor for parasympathetic neurons during development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8476-8486
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 1 1999


  • Chicken
  • Ciliary
  • Cochlear
  • GFRα
  • Neurturin
  • Ret
  • Trigerninal
  • Vestibular


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