Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), in addition to its essential role in the processes of vascularization and angiogenesis, exerts direct effects on neural cells in the central nervous system. There is abundant evidence indicating that VEGF protects neurons against cell death induced by a variety of insults, including hypoxia/ischemia and seizures. Recent work has demonstrated the expression of VEGF and its receptors in neurons and has revealed that VEGF can act as a neurotrophic factor to regulate neurogenesis and mediate the effects of enriched environment and antidepressants on hippocampal plasticity. Current studies from our laboratory and those of others have found that VEGF can activate divergent signaling components to regulate excitatory synaptic transmission in hippocampal neurons. Here we present an overview on current understanding of cellular and molecular mechanisms by which VEGF signaling is regulated in neural cells and discuss the recent advances in the understanding of how VEGF signaling regulates excitatory synaptic transmission in hippocampal neurons. The role for VEGF in regulating synaptic plasticity will be also discussed in the article.
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