VGF as a biomarker and therapeutic target in neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases
Quinn JP., Kandigian SE., Trombetta BA., Arnold SE., Carlyle BC.
Neurosecretory protein VGF (non-acronymic) belongs to the granin family of neuropeptides. VGF and VGF-derived peptides have been repeatedly identified in well-powered and well-designed multi-omic studies as dysregulated in neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases. New therapeutics are urgently needed for these devastating and costly diseases, as are new biomarkers to improve disease diagnosis and mechanistic understanding. From a list of 537 genes involved in Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis, VGF was highlighted by the Accelerating Medicines Partnership in Alzheimer’s disease as the potential therapeutic target of greatest interest. VGF levels are consistently decreased in brain tissue and CSF samples from patients with Alzheimer’s disease compared to controls, and its levels correlate with disease severity and Alzheimer’s disease pathology. In the brain, VGF exists as multiple functional VGF-derived peptides. Full-length human VGF1–615 undergoes proteolytic processing by prohormone convertases and other proteases in the regulated secretory pathway to produce at least 12 active VGF-derived peptides. In cell and animal models, these VGF-derived peptides have been linked to energy balance regulation, neurogenesis, synaptogenesis, learning and memory, and depression-related behaviors throughout development and adulthood. The C-terminal VGF-derived peptides, TLQP-62 (VGF554–615) and TLQP-21 (VGF554-574) have differential effects on Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis, neuronal and microglial activity, and learning and memory. TLQP-62 activates neuronal cell-surface receptors and regulates long-term hippocampal memory formation. TLQP-62 also prevents immune-mediated memory impairment, depression-like, and anxiety-like behaviors in mice. TLQP-21 binds to microglial cell-surface receptors, triggering microglial chemotaxis and phagocytosis. These actions were reported to reduce amyloid-β plaques and decrease neuritic dystrophy in a transgenic mouse model of familial Alzheimer’s disease. Expression differences of VGF-derived peptides have also been associated with frontotemporal lobar dementias, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Lewy body diseases, Huntington’s disease, pain, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, and antidepressant response. This review summarizes current knowledge and highlights questions for future investigation regarding the roles of VGF and its dysregulation in neurodegenerative and psychiatric disease. Finally, the potential of VGF and VGF-derived peptides as biomarkers and novel therapeutic targets for neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases is highlighted.