The role of the dopaminergic neurotrophin growth/differentiation factor-5 in the developing rat ventral midbrain

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O'Keeffe, Gerard W.
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University College Cork
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Growth differentiation factor-5 (GDF-5) is a member of the transforming growth factor-β superfamily, a family of proteins that play diverse roles in many aspects of cell growth, proliferation and differentiation. GDF-5 has also been shown to be a trophic factor for embryonic midbrain dopaminergic neurons in vitro (Krieglstein et al. 1995) and after transplantation to adult rats in vivo (Sullivan et al. 1998). GDF-5 has also been shown to have neuroprotective and neurorestorative effects on adult dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra in animal models of Parkinson’s disease (Sullivan et al. 1997, 1999; Hurley et al. 2004). This experimental evidence has lead to GDF-5 being proposed as a neurotrophic factor with potential for use in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. However, it is not know if GDF-5 is expressed in the brain and whether it plays a role in dopaminergic neuron development. The experiments presented here aim to address these questions. To that end this thesis is divided into five separate studies each addressing a particular question associated with GDF-5 and its expression patterns and roles during the development of the rat midbrain. Expression of the GDF-5 in the developing rat ventral mesencephalon (VM) was found to begin at E12 and peak on E14, the day that dopaminergic neurons undergo terminal differentiation. In the adult rat, GDF-5 was found to be restricted to heart and brain, being expressed in many areas of the brain, including striatum and midbrain. This indicated a role for GDF-5 in the development and maintenance of dopaminergic neurons. The appropriate receptors for GDF-5 (BMPR-II and BMPR-Ib) were found to be expressed at high levels in the rat VM at E14 and BMPR-II expression was demonstrated on dopaminergic neurons in the E13 mouse VM. GDF-5 resulted in a three-fold increase in the numbers of dopaminergic neurons in cultures of E14 rat VM, without affecting the numbers of neurones or total cells. GDF-5 was found to increase the proportion of neurons that were dopaminergic. The numbers of Nurr1-positive cells were not affected by GDF-5 treatment, but GDF-5 did increase the numbers of Nurr1- positive cells that expressed tyrosine hydroxylase (TH). Taken together this data indicated that GDF-5 increases the conversion of Nurr1-positive, TH-negative cells to Nurr1-positive, TH-positive cells. In GDF-5 treated cultures, total neurite length, neurite arborisation and somal area of dopaminergic were all significantly increased compared to control cultures. Thus this study showed that GDF-5 increased the numbers and morphological differentiation of VM dopaminergic neurones in vitro. In order to examine if GDF-5 could induce a dopaminergic phenotype in neural progenitor cells, neurosphere cultures prepared from embryonic rat VM were established. The effect of the gestational age of the donor VM on the proportion of cell types generated from neurospheres from E12, E13 and E14 VM was examined. Dopaminergic neurons could only be generated from neurospheres which were prepared from E12 VM. Thus in subsequent studies the effect of GDF-5 on dopaminergic induction was examined in progentior cell cultures prepared from the E12 rat VM. In primary cultures of E12 rat VM, GDF-5 increased the numbers of TH-positive cells without affecting the proliferation or survival of these cells. In cultures of expanded neural progenitor cells from the E12 rat VM, GDF-5 increased the expression of Nurr1 and TH, an action that was dependent on signalling through the BMPR-Ib receptor. Taken together, these experiments provide evidence that GDF-5 is expressed in the developing rat VM, is involved in both the induction of a dopaminergic phenotype in cells of the VM and in the subsequent morphological development of these dopaminergic neurons
Growth/differentiation factor-5 , Dopaminergic neurons , Survival , Growth
O'Keeffe, G.W., 2004. The role of the dopaminergic neurotrophin growth/differentiation factor-5 in the developing rat ventral midbrain. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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