Vasoactive intestinal polypeptide plasma levels associated with affective symptoms and brain structure and function in healthy females

Sci Rep. 2021 Jan 14;11(1):1406. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-80873-2.


Vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP) is a neuroendocrine peptide distributed throughout the human body, including the CNS, where it is particularly abundant in brain regions associated with anxiety and depression. Based on earlier studies indicating that peripheral VIP may cross through the blood-brain barrier, we hypothesized plasma VIP levels to be associated with symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as brain volume and resting-state functional connectivity in the amygdala, hippocampus, parahippocampus, and orbitofrontal cortex. Plasma VIP concentrations and anxiety/depression symptoms were measured in 37 healthy females. Functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging were used to evaluate functional connectivity and brain volume respectively, and their associations with VIP concentrations within brain regions associated with anxiety and depression. Negative correlations were found between VIP levels and symptoms of anxiety (r = - 0.44, p = 0.002) and depression (r = - 0.50, p = 0.001). Functional connectivity demonstrated significant VIP-dependent positive associations between the amygdala seed region with both the right parahippocampus (t(33) = 3.1, pFDR = 0.02) and right lateral orbitofrontal cortex (OFC; t(33) = 2.9, pFDR = 0.02). Moreover, VIP concentrations were significantly, positively correlated with brain volume in the left amygdala (r = 0.28, p = 0.007) and left lateral OFC (r = 0.29, p = 0.004). The present findings highlight a potential role for VIP in the neurobiology of affective symptoms.