Blood BDNF level is gender specific in severe depression

PLoS One. 2015 May 26;10(5):e0127643. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0127643. eCollection 2015.


Though the role of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) as a marker for major depressive disorder (MDD) and antidepressant efficacy has been widely studied, the role of BDNF in distinct groups of patients remains unclear. We evaluated the diagnostic value of BDNF as a marker of disease severity measured by HAM-D scores and antidepressants efficacy among MDD patients. Fifty-one patients who met DSM-IV criteria for MDD and were prescribed antidepressants and 38 controls participated in this study. BDNF in serum was measured at baseline, 1st, 2nd and 8th treatment weeks. Depression severity was evaluated using the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D). BDNF polymorphism rs6265 (val66met) was genotyped. We found a positive correlation between blood BDNF levels and severity of depression only among untreated women with severe MDD (HAM-D>24). Serum BDNF levels were lower in untreated MDD patients compared to control group. Antidepressants increased serum BDNF levels and reduced between-group differences after two weeks of treatment. No correlations were observed between BDNF polymorphism, depression severity, duration of illness, age and BDNF serum levels. Further supporting the role of BDNF in the pathology and treatment of MDD, we suggest that it should not be used as a universal biomarker for diagnosis of MDD in the general population. However, it has diagnostic value for the assessment of disease progression and treatment efficacy in individual patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / blood*
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / genetics
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Demography
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / blood*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / drug therapy
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / genetics
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Characteristics*


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • BDNF protein, human

Grant support

The authors have no support or funding to report.