The protein encoded by this gene is a neurotrophic factor, belonging to the GDNF family. Neurotrophic factors are important for the proper development and maintenance of the nervous system. These factors promote neuronal survival and can prevent the neuronal degeneration associated with injury, toxin exposure, or neurodegenerative disease. The encoded protein has amino acid similarity to its other family members, glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor and neurturin. This gene product promotes the survival of ventral midbrain dopaminergic neurons in culture and prevents their degeneration after 6-hydroxydopamine treatment in vivo.