Affiliations: Developmental and Regenerative Neurobiology, Department of Experimental Medical Science, Wallenberg Neuroscience Center, Lund University, Lund, Sweden
Correspondence to: Anders Björklund, Wallenberg Neuroscience Center, BMCA11, 22184 Lund, Sweden. Tel.: +46703146761; E-mail: [email protected].
Abstract: In two recent postmortem studies, Jeffrey Kordower and colleagues report new findings that open up for an interesting discussion on the status of GDNF/NRTN signaling in patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD), adding an interesting perspective on the, admittedly very limited, signs of restorative effects previously seen in GDNF/NRTN-treated patients. Their new findings show that the level of the GDNF signaling receptor Ret is overall markedly reduced relative to the non-PD controls, and most severely, up to 80%, in nigral neurons containing α-synuclein inclusions, accompanied by impaired signaling downstream of the Ret receptor. Notably, however, the vast majority of the remaining nigral neurons retained a low level of Ret expression, and hence a threshold level of signaling. Further observations made in two patients who had received AAV-NRTN gene therapy 8–10 years earlier suggest the intriguing possibility that NRTN is able to restore Ret expression and upregulate its own signaling pathway. This “wind-up” mechanism, which is likely to depend on an interaction with dopaminergic transcription factor Nurr1, has therapeutic potential and should encourage renewed efforts to turn GDNF/NRTN therapy into success, once the recurring problem of under-dosing is resolved.