Identification, expression and functional characterization of the GRAL gene

Zhihua Li, Bingwei Wang, Xuefei Wu, Shi Yuan Cheng, Luminita Paraoan, Jiawei Zhou*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


The glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) family is a group of neurotrophic factors with diverse biological functions. Members of the GDNF family exert their functions by interacting with a specific GDNF family receptor α (GFRα) and activation of the cRET. Here we report the identification and characterization of GDNF receptor-alpha-like (GRAL) gene. Sequence analysis indicated that GRAL is a distant homolog of the GFRα family, with 30% of its amino acid sequence identical to that of GFRα-3. There are two splice variants of GRAL: the full-length form (GRAL-A) represented by a 2080 bp mRNA and a short form (GRAL-B) represented by a 1833 bp mRNA. In adult mouse, GRAL transcripts have been found primarily in the CNS. In the developing mouse brain, the mRNA level of GRAL in the cerebrocortex and hippocampus reached a maximum at birth and declined afterwards. GRAL-A protein was localized predominantly in the plasma membrane. Overexpression of GRAL-A protected PC12 cells and cultured hippocampal neurons from serum starvation-induced cell apoptosis. The neuroprotective effect of GRAL was associated with marked inhibition of the Jun-N-terminal kinase signaling pathway. Our results suggest that GRAL belongs to a superfamily of GFRα and might take part in neuroprotection and brain development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)361-376
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of neurochemistry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 2005


  • Apoptosis
  • Glial cell-line-derived neurotrophic factor α receptor-like
  • Hippocampus
  • PC12

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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