Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) are potent trophic factors for dorsal root ganglion cells. In addition, these factors are produced in subsets of dorsal root ganglion cells and transported anterogradely to their terminals in the superficial dorsal horn of the spinal cord, where they constitute the only source of GDNF and BDNF. We investigated the effect of 10 μg GDNF and BDNF injected by lumbar puncture on the expression of the immediate early gene (IEG) products c-Fos, c-Jun, and Krox-24 in the adult rat dorsal horn. In the dorsal horn of S1 spinal segments, GDNF and BDNF induced a strong increase in IEG expression, which was most pronounced in laminae I and II (2.9- to 4.5-fold). More distal from the injection site, in the dorsal horn of L1/L2 spinal segments, the increase in IEG expression was less pronounced, suggesting a concentration-dependent effect. In order to explain the effects of intrathecally injected GDNF, we investigated whether lumbo-sacral dorsal horn neurons expressed RET protein, the signal-transducing element of the receptor complex for GDNF. It was found that several of these neurons contained RET immunoreactivity and that some of the RET-labeled neurons had the appearance of nociceptive-specific cells, confirming their presumed role in pain transmission. Additionally, using double-labeling immunofluorescence combined with confocal microscopy, it was found that after intrathecal GDNF injection 35% of c-Fos-labeled cells were also labeled for RET. These results demonstrate that intrathecally administered GDNF and BDNF induce IEG expression in dorsal horn neurons in the adult rat, supposedly by way of their cognate receptors, which are present on these neurons. We further suggest that the endogenous release of GDNF and BDNF, triggered by nociceptive stimuli, is involved in the induction of changes in spinal nociceptive transmission as in various pain states.

, , , , , , , , ,,
Experimental Neurology
Department of Neuroscience

Jongen, J., Haasdijk, E., Sabel-Goedknegt, H., van der Burg, H., Vecht, C., & Holstege, J. (2005). Intrathecal injection of GDNF and BDNF induces immediate early gene expression in rat spinal dorsal horn. Experimental Neurology, 194(1), 255–266. doi:10.1016/j.expneurol.2005.02.019