Reduced serum VGF levels were reversed by antidepressant treatment in depressed patients

World J Biol Psychiatry. 2017 Dec;18(8):586-591. doi: 10.1080/15622975.2016.1224923. Epub 2016 Sep 22.


Objectives: VGF, a non-acronymic neuropeptide, is important in the pathogenesis of major depressive disorder (MDD) and in the functioning and efficacy of some antidepressant drugs. In this study we assessed whether serum VGF levels change in MDD patients and if antidepressant treatments can restore these changes.

Methods: We measured serum VGF concentrations using sandwich ELISA in drug-free MDD patients before treatment began (n = 26) and at 8 weeks after antidepressant treatment (n = 26) with escitalopram and duloxetine, two common antidepressants. The severity of depression was assessed with the 17-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS).

Results: VGF serum levels were significantly lower in MDD patients compared to controls (P = .002), even after controlling for the effects of age and education (P = .037), and they were reversed by 8 weeks of drug treatment (P < .0001). Both escitalopram and duloxetine restored the decreased serum VGF levels (P < .05). We observed no correlation between VGF levels and HDRS scores in pre-treatment MDD patients (P = .879).

Conclusions: The results suggest that VGF may be implicated in the pathophysiology of MDD and in the mechanisms underlying the action of antidepressants, and serum VGF may be regarded as a trait parameter for MDD.

Keywords: Neuropeptide; VGF; antidepressants; major depressive disorder; serum.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antidepressive Agents / pharmacology*
  • Citalopram / pharmacology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / blood*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / drug therapy*
  • Duloxetine Hydrochloride / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Growth Factors / blood*
  • Nerve Growth Factors / drug effects*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Nerve Growth Factors
  • VGF protein, human
  • Citalopram
  • Duloxetine Hydrochloride