Glial cell-line derived neurotrophic factor-dependent fusimotor neuron survival during development

Jennifer Whitehead, Cynthia Keller-Peck, Jan Kucera, Warren G. Tourtellotte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Glial cell-line derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) is a potent survival factor for motor neurons. Previous studies have shown that some motor neurons depend upon GDNF during development but this GDNF-dependent motor neuron subpopulation has not been characterized. We examined GDNF expression patterns in muscle and the impact of altered GDNF expression on the development of subtypes of motor neurons. In GDNF hemizygous mice, motor neuron innervation to muscle spindle stretch receptors (fusimotor neuron innervation) was decreased, whereas in transgenic mice that overexpress GDNF in muscle, fusimotor innervation to muscle spindles was increased. Facial motor neurons, which do not contain fusimotor neurons, were not changed in number when GDNF was over expressed by facial muscles during their development. Taken together, these data indicate that fusimotor neurons depend upon GDNF for survival during development. Since the fraction of cervical and lumbar motor neurons lost in GDNF-deficient mice at birth closely approximates the size of the fusimotor neuron pool, these data suggest that motor neuron loss in GDNF-deficient mice may be primarily of fusimotor neuron origin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-41
Number of pages15
JournalMechanisms of Development
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2005


  • Fusimotor
  • Glial cell-line derived neurotrophic factor
  • Motor neuron
  • Muscle spindle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Embryology
  • Developmental Biology


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