VGF is a neurotrophin-inducible, activity-regulated gene product that is expressed in CNS and PNS neurons, in which it is processed into peptides and secreted. VGF synthesis is stimulated by BDNF, a critical regulator of hippocampal development and function, and two VGF C-terminal peptides increase synaptic activity in cultured hippocampal neurons. To assess VGF function in the hippocampus, we tested heterozygous and homozygous VGF knock-out mice in two different learning tasks, assessed long-term potentiation (LTP) and depression (LTD) in hippocampal slices from VGF mutant mice, and investigated how VGF C-terminal peptides modulate synaptic plasticity. Treatment of rat hippocampal slices with the VGF-derived peptide TLQP62 resulted in transient potentiation through a mechanism that was selectively blocked by the BDNF scavenger TrkB-Fc, the Trk tyrosine kinase inhibitor K252a (100 nM), and tPA STOP, an inhibitor of tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), an enzyme involved in pro-BDNF cleavage to BDNF, but was not blocked by the NMDA receptor antagonist APV, anti-p75 NTR function-blocking antiserum, or previous tetanic stimulation. Although LTP was normal in slices from VGF knock-out mice, LTD could not be induced, and VGF mutant mice were impaired in hippocampal-dependent spatial learning and contextual fear conditioning tasks. Our studies indicate that the VGF C-terminal peptide TLQP62 modulates hippocampal synaptic transmission through a BDNF-dependent mechanism and that VGF deficiency in mice impacts synaptic plasticity and memory in addition to depressive behavior.
- Contextual fear conditioning
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