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Behav Brain Res. 2009 Feb 11;197(2):262-78. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2008.10.006. Epub 2008 Oct 15.

Neuropeptides in depression: role of VGF.

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  • 1Department of Neuroscience and Cell Biology, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, 683 Hoes Lane West, Robert Wood Johnson-School of Public Health 357A, Piscataway, NJ 08854-5635, United States.


The monoamine hypothesis of depression is increasingly called into question by newer theories that revolve around changes in neuronal plasticity, primarily in the hippocampus, at both the structural and the functional levels. Chronic stress negatively regulates hippocampal function while antidepressants ameliorate the effects of stress on neuronal morphology and activity. Both stress and antidepressants have been shown to affect levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) whose transcription is dependent on cAMP response element binding protein (CREB). BDNF itself has antidepressant-like actions and can induce transcription of a number of molecules. One class of genes regulated by both BDNF and serotonin (5-HT) are neuropeptides including VGF (non-acryonimic) which has a novel role in depression. Neuropeptides are important modulators of neuronal function but their role in affective disorders is just emerging. Recent studies demonstrate that VGF, which is also a CREB-dependent gene, is upregulated by antidepressant drugs and voluntary exercise and is reduced in animal models of depression. VGF enhances hippocampal synaptic plasticity as well as neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus but the mechanisms of antidepressant-like actions of VGF in behavioral paradigms are not known. We summarize experimental data describing the roles of BDNF, VGF and other neuropeptides in depression and how they may be acting through the generation of new neurons and altered synaptic activity. Understanding the molecular and cellular changes that underlie the actions of neuropeptides and how these adaptations result in antidepressant-like effects will aid in developing drugs that target novel pathways for major depressive disorders.

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