BDNF Gene and Risk of Depression

The BDNF gene provides instructions for making a protein found in the brain and spinal cord called brain-derived neurotrophic factor. This protein promotes the growth, maturation, and maintenance of nerve cells. The BDNF protein helps regulate synaptic plasticity, which is important for learning and memory. The BDNF protein is found in regions of the brain that control eating, drinking, and body weight; the protein likely contributes to the management of these functions. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is associated with antidepressant response on the cellular level.

BDNF polymorphism has been associated with depression1,2. One study examined the relationship between BDNF Val66Met polymorphism, brain BDNF protein level and major depression. It found that the Met allele (a minor variant of the BDNF gene) is associated with an increased risk for depression. Depressed patients also had lower BDNF levels in 2 brain regions, namely the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and caudal brainstem (pons), compared with nondepressed subjects. Additionally, lower BDNF levels in ACC were found in subjects who had been exposed to early life adversity and/or died by suicide compared with nonsuicide decedents and no reported childhood adversity. This study may aid in identifying the possible mechanism by which altered BDNF expression contributes to MDD and suicide.

Low BDNF has also been associated with to Alzheimers and Parkinsons3 and obesity4

Related to:
Serotonin, Val66Met, MDD