Glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) family, consisting of glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), Neurturin (NRTN), Artemin (ARTN) and Persephin (PSPN), are members of the Transforming Growth Factor Beta (TGF beta) superfamily. NRTN functions to promote survival of a variety of neurons and other possible cells. ARTN plays role in survival and growth of various peripheral and central neurons. PSPN promotes the survival and growth of central dopaminergic and motor neurons, and is also related to kidney development. In a word, GDNF, NRTN, PSPN and ARTN support the survival and regulate the differentiation of central and many peripheral neurons. GNDF family members are crucial for the development and maintenance of central and peripheral neurons.
GNDF family signal is mediated by GFR-Alpha (GDNF Family Receptor-Alpha), a complex consisting of Ret receptor tyrosine kinase and a GPI (Glycosyl Phosphatidylinositol)-linked ligand-binding subunit. GDNF, NRTN, and ARTN respectively and specifically bind to GFR-Alpha1, GFR-Alpha2 and GFR-Alpha3. PSPN does not bind any of the mammalian GFR-Alpha, but GFR-Alpha4 in chicken.