Little is known about the role of neurotrophic growth factors in bone metabolism. This study investigated the short-term effects of glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) on calvarial-derived MC3T3-E1 osteoblasts. MC3T3-E1 expressed GDNF as well as its canonical receptors, GFRα1 and RET. Addition of recombinant GDNF to cultures in serum-containing medium modestly inhibited cell growth at high concentrations; however, under serum-free culture conditions GDNF dose-dependently increased cell proliferation. GDNF effects on cell growth were inversely correlated with its effect on alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity showing a significant dose-dependent inhibition of relative ALP activity with increasing concentrations of GDNF in serum-free culture medium. Live/dead and lactate dehydrogenase assays demonstrated GDNF did not significantly affect cell death or survival under serum-containing and serum-free conditions. The effect of GDNF on cell growth was abolished in the presence of inhibitors to GFR α 1 and RET indicating that GDNF stimulated calvarial osteoblasts via its canonical receptors. Finally, this study found that GDNF synergistically increased tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α)-stimulated MC3T3-E1 cell growth suggesting that GDNF interacted with TNF-α-induced signaling in osteoblastic cells. In conclusion, this study provides evidence for a direct, receptor-mediated effect of GDNF on osteoblasts highlighting a novel role for GDNF in bone physiology.