Brain-derived neurotrophic factor predicts mortality risk in older women

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2009 Aug;57(8):1447-52. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2009.02345.x. Epub 2009 Jun 8.


Objectives: To test the hypothesis that low circulating brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a secretory member of the neurotrophin family that has a protective role in neurodegeneration and stress responses and a regulatory role in metabolism, predicts risk of all-cause mortality in 85-year-old men and women.

Design: Longitudinal study with 50- to 58-month follow-up.

Setting: The 1914 cohort, a population-based cohort established in 1964 by the Research Center for Prevention and Health at Glostrup Hospital.

Participants: One hundred eighty-eight unselected 85-year-old Danes.

Measurements: BDNF was measured in plasma and serum. The Danish National Register of Patients was used to collect data on morbidity. The primary outcome in Cox regression analyses was all-cause mortality.

Results: Women with low plasma BDNF (lowest tertile) had greater all-cause mortality risk than women with high plasma BDNF (highest tertile) (hazard ratio=2.2, 95% confidence interval=1.1-4.7). Low plasma BDNF predicted mortality independently of activities of daily living; education; and a history of central nervous system disease, cerebrovascular accidents, cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease, and low-grade inflammation. No association was found between plasma BDNF and mortality in men, and serum BDNF did not influence mortality in either sex.

Conclusion: Low plasma BDNF is a novel, independent, and robust biomarker of mortality risk in old women. BDNF may be a central factor in the network of multimorbidity in old populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / blood*
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mortality / trends*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Survival Rate


  • Biomarkers
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor