Objectives: Alterations of BDNF signalling in major depression (MD) are supported by studies demonstrating decreased levels of the neurotrophin serum and plasma content in MD patients. We conducted a replication study and we performed two meta-analyses on studies analysing serum and plasma BDNF levels in MD patients.
Methods: The samples were composed by 489 patients/483 controls for the meta-analysis on serum and by 161 patients/211 controls for that on plasma levels. We performed also subgroup analyses to examine whether the decrease in BDNF levels in MD was influenced by gender.
Results: In the replication study we found decreased serum BDNF levels in MD patients (P<0.01) and we demonstrated that is down-regulated the mature form of the neurotrophin (mBDNF). No significant difference was evidenced for plasma BDNF levels. The meta-analyses showed a reduction of both BDNF serum (P<0.0001) and plasma levels (P=0.02) in MD. No difference in the effect size on serum BDNF was observed between males and females (P=0.18).
Conclusions: In conclusion, our results provide evidence of peripheral BDNF alteration in MD and support the rationale for further investigation aiming to the identification of biomarkers for differential diagnosis and personalization of therapies in this disorder.