The Journal of cell biology

GDNF promotes tubulogenesis of GFRalpha1-expressing MDCK cells by Src-mediated phosphorylation of Met receptor tyrosine kinase.

PMID 12682085


Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) and hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) are multifunctional signaling molecules in embryogenesis. HGF binds to and activates Met receptor tyrosine kinase. The signaling receptor complex for GDNF typically includes both GDNF family receptor alpha1 (GFRalpha1) and Ret receptor tyrosine kinase. GDNF can also signal independently of Ret via GFRalpha1, although the mechanism has remained unclear. We now show that GDNF partially restores ureteric branching morphogenesis in ret-deficient mice with severe renal hypodysplasia. The mechanism of Ret-independent effect of GDNF was therefore studied by the MDCK cell model. In MDCK cells expressing GFRalpha1 but no Ret, GDNF stimulates branching but not chemotactic migration, whereas both branching and chemotaxis are promoted by GDNF in the cells coexpressing Ret and GFRalpha1, mimicking HGF/Met responses in wild-type MDCK cells. Indeed, GDNF induces Met phosphorylation in several ret-deficient/GFRalpha1-positive and GFRalpha1/Ret-coexpressing cell lines. However, GDNF does not immunoprecipite Met, making a direct interaction between GDNF and Met highly improbable. Met activation is mediated by Src family kinases. The GDNF-induced branching of MDCK cells requires Src activation, whereas the HGF-induced branching does not. Our data show a mechanism for the GDNF-induced branching morphogenesis in non-Ret signaling.