VGF: an inducible gene product, precursor of a diverse array of neuro-endocrine peptides and tissue-specific disease biomarkers

J Chem Neuroanat. 2011 Dec;42(4):249-61. doi: 10.1016/j.jchemneu.2011.05.007. Epub 2011 May 20.


The vgf gene (non-acronymic) is induced in vivo by neurotrophins including Nerve Growth Factor (NGF), Brain Derived Growth Factor (BDNF) and Glial Derived Growth Factor (GDNF), by synaptic activity and by homeostatic and other stimuli. Post-translational processing of a single VGF precursor gives raise to a varied multiplicity of neuro-endocrine peptides, some of which are secreted upon stimulation both in vitro and in vivo. Several VGF peptides, accounting for ∼20% of the VGF precursor sequence, have shown biological roles including regulation of food intake, energy balance, reproductive and homeostatic mechanisms, synaptic strengthening, long-term potentiation (LTP) and anti-depressant activity. From a further ∼50% of VGF derive multiple "fragments", largely identified in the human cerebro-spinal fluid by proteomic studies searching for disease biomarkers. These represent an important starting point for discovery of further VGF products relevant to neuronal brain functions, as well as to neurodegenerative and psychiatric disease conditions. A distinct feature of VGF peptides is their cell type specific diversity in all neuroendocrine organs studied so far. Selective differential profiles are found across the cell populations of pituitary, adrenal medulla and pancreatic islets, and in gastric neuroendocrine as well as some further mucosal cells, and are yet to be investigated in neuronal systems. At the same time, specific VGF peptide/s undergo selective modulation in response to organ or cell population relevant stimuli. Such pattern argues for a multiplicity of roles for VGF peptides, including endocrine functions, local intercellular communication, as well as the possible mediation of intracellular mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Endocrine System Diseases / genetics
  • Endocrine System Diseases / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Homeostasis / genetics
  • Humans
  • Nervous System Diseases / genetics
  • Nervous System Diseases / metabolism*
  • Neuropeptides / biosynthesis*
  • Neuropeptides / genetics
  • Protein Precursors / biosynthesis
  • Protein Precursors / genetics
  • Tissue Distribution / genetics


  • Biomarkers
  • Neuropeptides
  • Protein Precursors
  • VGF peptide