Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF): A drug candidate for the treatment of Parkinson's disease

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104 Scopus citations


Considerable effort has been devoted to the search for molecules that might exert trophic influences on midbrain dopamine neurons, and potentially be of therapeutic value in the treatment of Parkinson's disease. One such candidate is glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF). GNDF is distantly related to the transforming growth factor-β superfamily and is widely expressed in many neuronal and non-neuronal tissues. GDNF uses a multisubunit receptor system in which GFRα-1 and Ret function as the ligand-binding and signalling components, respectively. In addition to its effects on cultured fetal midbrain dopamine neurons, GDNF promotes recovery of the injured nigrostriatal dopamine system and improves motor functions in rodent and nonhuman primate models of Parkinson's disease. Intraventricular, intrastriatal and intranigral routes of administration are efficacious in both models. In parkinsonian nonhuman primates, GDNF treatment improves bradykinesia, rigidity and postural instability. In this model, adult midbrain dopamine neurons stimulated by GDNF show increased cell size, neuritic extent, and expression of phenotypic markers. The neurorestorative effects of a single administration of GDNF last for at least a month and can be maintained in rhesus monkeys by monthly injections. GDNF also induces neuroprotective changes in dopamine neurons, which are active within hours following trophic factor administration in rodents. The powerful neuroprotective and neurorestorative properties of GDNF seen in preclinical studies suggest that trophic factors may play an important role in treating Parkinson's disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)P35-P42
JournalJournal of Neurology, Supplement
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1998


  • 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP)
  • Dopamine
  • Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF)
  • Nonhuman primates
  • Parkinson

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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