Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

GDNF family receptors in peripheral target innervation and hormone production

Päivi Lindfors

Doctoral dissertation, September 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Biosciences, Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences and Neuroscience Center.

Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) family ligands: GDNF, neurturin, persephin and artemin, signal through a receptor tyrosine kinase Ret by binding first to a co-receptor (GFRα1-4) that is attached to the plasma membrane. The GDNF family factors can support the survival of various peripheral and central neuronal populations and have important functions also outside the nervous system, especially in kidney development. Activating mutations in the RET gene cause tumours in neuroendocrine cells, whereas inactivating mutations in RET are found in patients with Hirschsprung's disease (HSCR) characterized by loss of ganglionic cells along the intestine.

The aim of this study was to examine the in vivo functions of neurturin receptor GFRα2 and persephin receptor GFRα4 using knockout (KO) mice. Mice lacking GFRα2 grow poorly after weaning and have deficits in parasympathetic and enteric innervation. This study shows that impaired secretion of the salivary glands and exocrine pancreas contribute to growth retardation in GFRα2-KO mice. These mice have a reduced number of intrapancreatic neurons and decreased cholinergic innervation of the exocrine pancreas as well as reduced excitatory fibres in the myenteric plexus of the small intestine. This study also demonstrates that GFRα2-mediated Ret signalling is required for target innervation and maintenance of soma size of sympathetic cholinergic neurons and sensory nociceptive IB4-binding neurons. Furthermore, lack of GFRα2 in mice results in deficient perception of temperatures above and below thermoneutrality and in attenuated inflammatory pain response. GFRα4 is co-expressed with Ret predominantly in calcitonin-producing thyroid C-cells in the mouse.

In this study GFRα4-deficient mice were generated. The mice show no gross developmental deficits and have a normal number of C-cells. However, young but not adult mice lacking GFRα4 have a lower production of calcitonin in thyroid tissue and consequently, an increased bone formation rate. Thus, GFRα4/Ret signalling may regulate calcitonin production. In conclusion, this study reveals that GFRα2/Ret signalling is crucial for the development and function of specific components of the peripheral nervous system and that GFRα4-mediated Ret signalling is required for controlling transmitter synthesis in thyroid C-cells.

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Last updated 31.07.2006

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