The steady-state expression levels of glial cell line-derived growth factor (GDNF) mRNA was studied in the post mortem spinal cord and muscle of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), by reverse transcription followed by polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). GDNF mRNA levels in the lumbar cord were significantly increased in ALS as compared with controls. On the other hand, GDNF mRNA levels were significantly lower in the muscle in ALS patients. The increase of GDNF mRNA in the spinal cord mostly reflected an increase in the anterior horn, anterior and lateral columns, where the pathological involvement was severe. In the posterior column and posterior horn with less pathological involvement, the increase was less. These results suggest that GDNF mRNA levels are inversely regulated between the spinal cord and muscle in ALS, increased in the spinal cord and lowered in the muscle, in correlation with the pathological severity.