The GDNF family ligands (GFLs) are a group of neurotrophic factors that influence the development, survival, and maintenance of specific populations of neurons in the central and peripheral nervous systems. The cholinergic neurons of the basal forebrain provide cholinergic innervation to cortical structures and their integrity is vital to normal cognitive function. GDNF, the original member of the GFL family promotes the survival of developing basal forebrain cholinergic neurons in vitro. We have now found that neurturin (NRTN) and persephin (PSPN) also promote the survival of basal forebrain neurons including both cholinergic neurons and a population of non-cholinergic neurons with an efficacy comparable to NGF. We also demonstrate that developing and mature basal forebrain cholinergic neurons (BFCN) express GFL receptors. Ret, the signaling component of the GFL-receptor complex, is expressed in most adult rat BFCN. In addition, Ret and the GFL co-receptors GFRα1 and GFRα2 are expressed in developing cholinergic neurons in cultures of embryonic basal forebrain. Our results suggest that the GFLs may be effective as neuroprotective agents for BFCNs in vivo.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)447-455
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental Neurology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 2003


  • Cell culture
  • GDNF
  • GFRα
  • NRTN
  • Neuronal survival
  • PSPN
  • Ret
  • VAChT


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