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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 May 10;108(19):8021-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1103732108. Epub 2011 Apr 25.

Fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF2) augmentation early in life alters hippocampal development and rescues the anxiety phenotype in vulnerable animals.

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Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Institute , University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.


Individuals with mood disorders exhibit alterations in the fibroblast growth factor system, including reduced hippocampal fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF2). It is difficult, however, to pinpoint whether these alterations are a cause or consequence of the disorder. The present study asks whether FGF2 administered the day after birth has long-lasting effects on hippocampal development and emotionality. We show that early-life FGF2 shifts the pace of neurogenesis, with an early acceleration around weaning followed by a deceleration in adulthood. This, in turn, results in a denser dentate gyrus with more neurons. To assess the impact of early-life FGF2 on emotionality, we use rats selectively bred for differences in locomotor response to novelty. Selectively bred low-responder (bLR) rats show low levels of novelty-induced locomotion and exhibit high levels of anxiety- and depression-like behavior compared with their selectively bred high-responder counterparts. Early-life FGF2 decreased anxiety-like behavior in highly anxious bLRs without altering other behaviors and without affecting high-responder rats. Laser capture microscopy of the dentate gyrus followed by microarray analysis revealed genes that were differentially expressed in bLRs exposed to early-life FGF2 vs. vehicle-treated bLRs. Some of the differentially expressed genes that have been positively associated with anxiety were down-regulated, whereas genes that promote cell survival were up-regulated. Overall, these results show a key role for FGF2 in the developmental trajectory of the hippocampus as well as the modulation of anxiety-like behavior in adulthood, and they point to potential downstream targets for the treatment of anxiety disorders.

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