Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a well-known cellular mitogen, and a vascular growth factor and permeability regulator. It participates in physiological and pathological processes of angiogenesis and in the development of lymphatic vessels. In addition to the proangiogenic activity, studies of recent years have revealed neurotrophic and neuroprotective potential of VEGF both in the peripheral and central nervous system. VEGF directly influences Schwann cells, neuronal progenitor cells, astrocytes and microglia. This factor plays an import role in developmental processes of the nervous tissue since it is implicated in neurogenesis and the regulation of neuronal development, and in the differentiation and formation of vessels in the brain. VEGF elicits its biological effect via an interaction with three VEGF receptor subtypes: VEGFR1, VEGFR2 and VEGFR3. In the nervous system, VEGFR2 signaling prevails. VEGF as a trophic factor, influencing both vascular endothelial cells and brain cells is a focus of the studies on neuropsychiatric disorders and psychotropic drug action. Antidepressant drugs were shown to induce hippocampal expression of VEGF. In addition, the experiments in animals models of depression have demonstrated that VEGFR2 signaling is indispensable for cellular and behavioral response to antidepressant drugs. Acquiring a deeper knowledge into the signaling pathways engaged in neurogenic and behavioral VEGF actions can unravel new targets for more efficient and quick acting antidepressant drugs.
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