Neurturin exerts potent actions on survival and function of midbrain dopaminergic neurons

Brian A. Horger, Merry C. Nishimura, Mark P. Armanini, Li Chong Wang, Kris T. Poulsen, Carl Rosenblad, Deniz Kirik, Barbara Moffat, Laura Simmons, Eugene Johnson, Jeff Milbrandt, Arnon Rosenthal, Anders Bjorklund, Richard A. Vandlen, Mary A. Hynes, Heidi S. Phillips

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303 Scopus citations


Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) exhibits potent effects on survival and function of midbrain dopaminergic (DA) neurons in a variety of models. Although other growth factors expressed in the vicinity of developing DA neurons have been reported to support survival of DA neurons in vitro, to date none of these factors duplicate the potent and selective actions of GDNF in vivo. We report here that neurturin (NTN), a homolog of GDNF, is expressed in the nigrostriatal system, and that NTN exerts potent effects on survival and function of midbrain DA neurons. Our findings indicate that NTN mRNA is sequentially expressed in the ventral midbrain and striatum during development and that NTN exhibits survival-promoting actions on both developing and mature DA neurons. In vitro, NTN supports survival of embryonic DA neurons, and in vivo, direct injection of NTN into the substantia nigra protects mature DA neurons from cell death induced by 6- OHDA. Furthermore, administration of NTN into the striatum of intact adult animals induces behavioral and biochemical changes associated with functional upregulation of nigral DA neurons. The similarity in potency and efficacy of NTN and GDNF on DA neurons in several paradigms stands in contrast to the differential distribution of the receptor components GDNF Family Receptor α1 (GFRα1) and GFRα2 within the ventral mesencephalon. These results suggest that NTN is an endogenous trophic factor for midbrain DA neurons and point to the possibility that GDNF and NTN may exert redundant trophic influences on nigral DA neurons acting via a receptor complex that includes GFRα1.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4929-4937
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 1 1998


  • 6-OHDA
  • Doparninergic
  • GDNF
  • Neurturin
  • Nigrostriatal
  • Parkinson's
  • Trophic


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