Neurotrophic factors may play a role in exercise-induced neuroprotective effects, however it is not known if exercise mediates changes in glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) protein levels in the spinal cord. The aim of the current study was to determine if 2 weeks of exercise alters GDNF protein content in the lumbar spinal cord of young and old rats. GDNF protein was quantified via an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and Western blot. Immunohistochemical analysis localized GDNF in choline acetyltransferase (ChAT)-positive motor neurons and cell body areas were measured. Involuntary running in the young animals appeared to elicit the greatest increase in GDNF protein content (sixfold increase), followed by swimming (threefold increase) and voluntary running (twofold increase); however there was no significant difference between the modalities of exercise. Low-intensity running of the old animals significantly increased GDNF protein content in the spinal cord. Both young and old exercised animals showed a doubling in ChAT-positive motor neuron cell body areas. These results suggest that GDNF protein content in the spinal cord is modulated by exercise.
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