Recently, a common single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) has been identified in the gene encoding brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). The variant BDNF(Met) has been shown to have decreased activity-dependent BDNF secretion from neurons and to lead to impairments in specific forms of learning and altered susceptibility to stress. A mouse model containing BDNF(Met) has also been linked to increased anxiety-like behavior. In a translational study, mice and human carriers of the BDNF(Met) allele were compared in their ability to extinguish a learned fear memory. Both showed slower suppression of the learned fear response. In humans, the neural correlates of this behavior were validated using fMRI. As anxiety and fear extinction lie at the core of symptoms and therapeutic approaches to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), we propose that BDNF genotype and neuroimaging may be useful as biomarkers to provide guidance for more customized therapeutic directions. The aim of this paper is to review the available knowledge on the BDNF Val66Met SNP, with emphasis on anxiety- and fear-related endophenotypes and its potential implications for PTSD.
© 2010 Association for Research in Nervous and Mental Disease.