GDNF and NGF family members and receptors in human fetal and adult spinal cord and dorsal root ganglia

J Comp Neurol. 2001 Nov 12;440(2):204-17. doi: 10.1002/cne.1380.


We describe the expression of mRNA encoding ligands and receptors of members of the GDNF family and members of the neurotrophin family in the adult human spinal cord and dorsal root ganglia (DRG). Fetal human spinal cord and ganglia were investigated for the presence of ligands and receptors of the neurotrophin family. Tissues were collected from human organ donors and after routine elective abortions. Messenger RNA was found encoding RET, GFR alpha-1, BDNF, trkB, and trkC in the adult human spinal cord and BDNF, NT-3, p75, trkB, and trkC in the fetal human spinal cord. The percentage of adult human DRG cells expressing p75, trkA, trkB, or trkC was 57, 46, 29, and 24%, respectively, and that of DRG cells expressing RET, GFR alpha-1, GFR alpha-2, or GFR alpha-3 was 79, 20, 51, and 32%, respectively. GFR alpha-2 was expressed selectively in small, GFR alpha-3 principally in small and GFR alpha-1 and RET in both large and small adult human DRG neurons. p75 and trkB were expressed by a wide range of DRG neurons while trkA was expressed in most small diameter and trkC primarily in large DRG neurons. Fetal DRG cells were positive for the same probes as adult DRG cells except for NT-3, which was only found in fetal DRG cells. Messenger RNA species only expressed at detectable levels in fetal but not adult spinal cord tissues included GDNF, GFR alpha-2, NT-3, and p75. Notably, GFR alpha-2, which is expressed in the adult rat spinal cord, was not found in the adult human spinal cord.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aging / metabolism*
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / genetics
  • Cell Size / physiology
  • Drosophila Proteins*
  • Female
  • Fetus
  • Ganglia, Spinal / cytology
  • Ganglia, Spinal / embryology
  • Ganglia, Spinal / metabolism*
  • Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Receptors
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Membrane Glycoproteins*
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Neurons / cytology
  • Motor Neurons / metabolism
  • Nerve Growth Factors / genetics*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics*
  • Neurons, Afferent / cytology
  • Neurons, Afferent / metabolism*
  • Neurotrophin 3 / genetics
  • Posterior Horn Cells / cytology
  • Posterior Horn Cells / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-ret
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / genetics
  • Receptor, Nerve Growth Factor / genetics
  • Receptor, trkB / genetics
  • Receptor, trkC / genetics
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / genetics
  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor*
  • Spinal Cord / cytology
  • Spinal Cord / embryology
  • Spinal Cord / metabolism*


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • GDNF protein, human
  • GFRA1 protein, human
  • GFRA2 protein, human
  • GFRA3 protein, human
  • Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Receptors
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Nerve Growth Factors
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Neurotrophin 3
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptor, Nerve Growth Factor
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-ret
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • Receptor, trkB
  • Receptor, trkC
  • Ret protein, Drosophila