Neurturin, a member of the glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor familys of ligands, is important for development of many cranial parasympathetic ganglion neurons. We have investigated the sacral component of the parasympathetic nervous system in mice with gene deletions for neurturin or its preferred receptor, GFRα2. Disruption of neurturin signalling decreased cholinergic VIP innervation to the mucosa of the reproductive organs, but not to the smooth muscle layers of these organs or to the urinary bladder. Thus, neurturin and its receptor are involved in parasympathetic innervation of a select group of pelvic visceral tissues. In contrast, noradrenergic innervation was not affected by the gene ablations. The epithelium of reproductive organs from knockout animals was atrophied, indicating that cholinergic innervation may be important for the maintenance of normal structure. Cholinergic neurons express GFRα2 on their terminals and somata, indicating they can respond to neurotrophic support, and their somata are smaller when neurturin signalling is disrupted. Colocalisation studies showed that many peripheral glia express GFRα2 although its role in these cells is yet to be determined. Our results indicate that neurturin, acting through GFRα2, is essential for parasympathetic innervation of the mucosae of reproductive organs, as well as for maintenance of a broader group of sacral parasympathetic neurons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)288-300
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular and Cellular Neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2004


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