GDNF Acutely Potentiates Ca2+ Channels and Excitatory Synaptic Transmission in Midbrain Dopaminergic Neurons Academic Article uri icon


  • Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) is best known for its long-term survival effect on dopaminergic neurons in the ventral midbrain. A recent study showed that acute application of GDNF to these neurons suppresses A-type potassium channels and potentiates neuronal excitability. Here we have characterized the acute effects of GDNF on Ca(2+) channels and synaptic transmission. GDNF rapidly and reversibly potentiated the high voltage-activated (HVA) Ca(2+) channel currents in cultured dopaminergic neurons. Analyses of channel kinetics indicate that GDNF decreased the activation time constant, increased the inactivation and deactivation time constants of HVA Ca(2+) channel currents. Ca(2+) imaging experiments demonstrate that GDNF facilitated Ca(2+) influx induced by membrane depolarization. To investigate the physiological consequences of the Ca(2+) channel modulation, we examined the acute effects of GDNF on excitatory synaptic transmission at synapses made by these dopaminergic neurons, which co-release the transmitter glutamate. Within 3 min of application, GDNF increased the amplitude of spontaneous and evoked excitatory autaptic- or multiple-postsynaptic currents. The frequency as well as the amplitude of miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents was also increased. These results reveal, for the first time, an acute effect of GDNF on synaptic transmission and its potential mechanisms, and suggest that an important function of GDNF for midbrain dopaminergic neurons is the acute modulation of transmission and ion channels.

author list (cited authors)

  • Wang, J., Chen, G., Lu, B., & Wu, C.

citation count

  • 30

publication date

  • July 2003