To investigate the capability of Sprague-Dawley rat bone marrow stromal cells to secrete glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factors (GDNF), we detected expression of GDNF messenger RNA and protein in bone marrow stromal cells of Sprague-Dawley rats by reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), respectively. The GDNF messenger RNA and protein were detected in culture medium and total cell protein when bone marrow stromal cells were cultured for 3 days. The levels of GDNF in culture medium and total cell protein increased gradually after 3, 7 and 10 days of culture. Rat bone marrow stromal cells have the potential to secrete GDNF. Furthermore, the ability of secretion is determined by the surrounding microenvironment and self-growth status.