Maternal immune activation (MIA) during pregnancy impacts offspring neurodevelopmental trajectories and induces lifelong consequences, including emotional and cognitive alterations. Using the polyinosinic:polycytidilic acid (PIC) MIA model we have previously demonstrated enhanced depression-like behavior in adult MIA offspring, which was associated with reduced expression of the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) receptor 2 (VEGFR2) in the hippocampus. Since VEGF mediates the effects of various antidepressant agents, we here set out to explore whether VEGF administration could rescue the depression-like behavioral deficits in MIA offspring. To test our hypothesis, control and MIA offspring were intracerebroventricularly (i.c.v.) infused with either VEGF or vehicle solution and depression-related behavior was assessed in the sucrose preference test (SPT) and the tail suspension test (TST). As a surrogate of VEGF activity, the phosphorylation of the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) in hippocampus was quantified. We found that VEGF treatment reduced depression-related behavioral despair in the TST in MIA offspring but had no effect on anhedonia-like behavior in the SPT. While VEGF administration induced the phosphorylation of ERK in the hippocampus of control offspring, this effect was blunted in the MIA offspring. We conclude that VEGF administration, at the dosage tested, beneficially affects some aspects of the depression-like phenotype in the adult MIA offspring, inviting further studies using different dosage regimes to further explore the therapeutic potential of VEGF treatment in MIA-related changes in brain function and behavior.
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