Prominent expression of glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor in human skeletal muscle

J Comp Neurol. 1998 Dec 21;402(3):303-12.


Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) has been shown to exert neurotrophic effects on motor neurons as well as mesencephalic dopaminergic neurons. Because GDNF promotes survival of motor neurons in vivo and in vitro and rescues motor neurons from naturally occurring cell death, the potential use of GDNF for treatment of motor neuron diseases has been a major focus of recent research. The expression of GDNF in humans, however, has not been fully examined. In the present study, we examined the expression of GDNF in adult human muscle by Northern blot, reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), and immunohistochemical analyses to address physiological roles of GDNF in humans. Northern blot analysis demonstrated high expression of GDNF mRNA in human skeletal muscle when compared to that of mouse. Intense GDNF immunoreactivity was observed in the vicinity of plasma membranes of skeletal muscle, particularly at neuromuscular junctions. GDNF immunoreactivity was also observed within the axons and surrounding Schwann cells of peripheral nerves. However, RT-PCR detected expression of GDNF mRNA only in skeletal muscle, and not within the anterior horn cells of human spinal cord. These results suggest that GDNF is produced by skeletal muscle and taken up at the nerve terminals for retrograde transport by axons. Thus, GDNF in human skeletal muscle may be involved in promoting motor neuron survival as a target-derived neurotrophic factor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Axons / metabolism
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Blotting, Northern
  • Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Motor Neurons / metabolism*
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / ultrastructure
  • Muscle Spindles / metabolism
  • Muscle Spindles / ultrastructure
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Nerve Growth Factors*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Neuromuscular Junction / metabolism
  • Neuromuscular Junction / ultrastructure
  • Peripheral Nerves / metabolism
  • Peripheral Nerves / ultrastructure
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • GDNF protein, human
  • Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Nerve Growth Factors
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins