The Neuropeptide VGF Is Reduced in Human Bipolar Postmortem Brain and Contributes to Some of the Behavioral and Molecular Effects of Lithium


Smita Thakker-Varia , Ying Y. Jean, Payal Parikh, Caroline F. Sizer, Jennifer Jernstedt Ayer, Ankit Parikh, Thomas M. Hyde, Steven Buyske, and Janet Alder


Recent studies demonstrate that the neuropeptide VGF (nonacronymic) is regulated in the hippocampus by antidepressant therapies and animal models of depression and that acute VGF treatment has antidepressant-like activity in animal paradigms. However, the role of VGF in human psychiatric disorders is unknown. We now demonstrate using in situ hybridization that VGF is downregulated in bipolar disorder in the CA region of the hippocampus and Brodmann's area 9 of the prefrontal cortex. The mechanism of VGF in relation to LiCl was explored. Both LiCl intraperitoneally and VGF intracerebroventricularly reduced latency to drink in novelty-induced hypophagia, and LiCl was not effective in VGF +/− mice, suggesting that VGF may contribute to the effects of LiCl in this behavioral procedure that responds to chronic antidepressant treatment. VGF by intrahippocampal injection also had novel activity in an amphetamine-induced hyperlocomotion assay, thus mimicking the actions of LiCl injected intraperitoneally in a system that phenocopies manic-like behavior. Moreover, VGF +/− mice exhibited increased locomotion after amphetamine treatment and did not respond to LiCl, suggesting that VGF is required for the effects of LiCl in curbing the response to amphetamine. Finally, VGF delivered intracerebroventricularly in vivo activated the same signaling pathways as LiCl and is necessary for the induction of mitogen-activated protein kinase and Akt by LiCl, thus lending insight into the molecular mechanisms underlying the actions of VGF. The dysregulation of VGF in bipolar disorder as well as the behavioral effects of the neuropeptide similar to LiCl suggests that VGF may underlie the pathophysiology of bipolar disorder.