Blockage of VIP during mouse embryogenesis modifies adult behavior and results in permanent changes in brain chemistry

J Mol Neurosci. 2007;31(3):183-200. doi: 10.1385/jmn:31:03:185.


Vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) regulates growth and development during the early postimplantation period of mouse embryogenesis. Blockage of VIP with a VIP antagonist during this period results in growth restriction, microcephaly, and developmental delays. Similar treatment of neonatal rodents also causes developmental delays and impaired diurnal rhythms, and the adult brains of these animals exhibit neuronal dystrophy and increased VIP binding. These data suggest that blockage of VIP during the development of the nervous system can result in permanent changes to the brain. In the current study, pregnant mice were treated with a VIP antagonist during embryonic days 8 through 10. The adult male offspring were examined in tests of novelty, paired activity, and social recognition. Brain tissue was examined for several measures of chemistry and gene expression of VIP and related compounds. Glial cells from the cortex of treated newborn mice were plated with neurons and examined for VIP binding and their ability to enhance neuronal survival. Treated adult male mice exhibited increased anxiety-like behavior and deficits in social behavior. Brain tissue exhibited regionally specific changes in VIP chemistry and a trend toward increased gene expression of VIP and related compounds that reached statistical significance in the VIP receptor, VPAC-1, in the female cortex. When compared to control astrocytes, astrocytes from treated cerebral cortex produced further increases in neuronal survival with excess synaptic connections and reduced VIP binding. In conclusion, impaired VIP activity during mouse embryogenesis resulted in permanent changes to both adult brain chemistry/cell biology and behavior with aspects of autism-like social deficits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / cytology
  • Astrocytes / metabolism
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain Chemistry*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase / metabolism
  • Embryonic Development / physiology*
  • Female
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Social Behavior
  • Synaptophysin / metabolism
  • Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide* / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide* / chemistry
  • Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide* / metabolism


  • Adnp protein, mouse
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Synaptophysin
  • Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase