BDNF Val66Met variant and smoking in a Chinese population

PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e53295. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053295. Epub 2012 Dec 28.


Several recent studies have supported the hypothesis that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a member of the neurotrophic factor family, might be associated with nicotine addiction. Association studies have also suggested that the BDNF gene might play a role in the susceptibility to nicotine dependence but results appear contradictory. The present work was therefore undertaken to examine the association of smoking with the BDNF Val66Met gene polymorphism in Chinese population. The BDNF Val66Met gene polymorphism was examined in 628 healthy male volunteers including 322 smokers and 306 non-smokers. Also, the BDNF serum levels were measured in 136 smokers and 97 nonsmokers. Our results showed no significant association between the BDNF Val66Met polymorphism or serum levels among smokers and non-smokers. Smokers with the Met allele however started smoking significantly earlier than those with the Val/Val genotype (mean age at smoking initiation of 17.4, 17.9 and 21.2 years for Met/Met, Met/Val, and Val/Val, respectively; both p<0.05). No other significant differences between other variables such as number of cigarettes per day, smoking severity as measured by the Fagerstrom Test for Nicotine Dependence (FTND) score and carbon monoxide (CO) levels (all p>0.05). In addition, there was no main effect of genotype on serum BDNF levels. Our findings suggest that the BDNF Val66Met polymorphism may not be involved in susceptibility to smoking among the Chinese male population, but may influence the age at which smoking is initiated. However, the findings must be interpreted with caution because of the relatively small sample size for an association study. Results should be confirmed in a larger cohort.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • Aged
  • Amino Acid Substitution
  • Asian People / genetics
  • Asian People / statistics & numerical data
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / genetics*
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / physiology
  • China / epidemiology
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methionine / genetics
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation, Missense / physiology
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide* / physiology
  • Population
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Smoking / ethnology
  • Smoking / genetics*
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / epidemiology
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / ethnology
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / genetics
  • Valine / genetics
  • Young Adult


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • BDNF protein, human
  • Methionine
  • Valine

Grants and funding

This study was funded by National Natural Science Foundation of China (81000509) and Beijing Municipal Excellent Talents Foundation (2010D003034000032). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.