Purification and Initial Characterization of Rat B49 Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. L-F. H. Lin at Synergen, Inc., 1885 33rd Street, Boulder, CO 80301, U.S.A.


Abstract: The rat glial cell line B49 releases into its culture medium a potent neurotrophic factor that exhibits relative specificity for the dopaminergic neurons in dissociated cultures of rat embryonic midbrain. This factor is a heparin-binding, basic protein that is heterogeneously glycosylated and migrates on sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) and on molecular sieve chromatography with an apparent mass of ∼33–45 kDa. The factor behaves like a disulfide-bonded homodimer, whose biological activity is destroyed by reduction of disulfide bonds but not by SDS-PAGE or reversed-phase (RP)-HPLC. The apparent mass of the monomer is ∼16 kDa after deglycosylation with N-Glycanase. This factor has been purified 34,000-fold to apparent homogeneity by a combination of heparin-affinity chromatography, molecular sieving chromatography, SDS-PAGE, and RP-HPLC. The purified rat protein promotes the survival, morphological differentiation, and high-affinity dopamine reuptake of dopaminergic neurons in midbrain cultures, without obvious effects on total neurons or glia and without increasing high-affinity GABA or serotonin reuptake. The purified protein exhibits an EC50 in midbrain cultures at ∼40 pg/ml, or 1 pM, and has unique amino-terminal and internal amino acid sequences. The sequences provide a basis for cloning and expression of the gene for rat and human glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), confirming that the protein purified as reported here is GDNF.