Determinants of Blood Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Blood Levels in Patients with Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2017 Jul;41(7):1280-1287. doi: 10.1111/acer.13414. Epub 2017 May 30.


Background: Blood brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels are influenced by both addiction and mood disorders, as well as somatic conditions, gender, and genetic polymorphisms, leading to widely varying results. Depressive symptoms and episodes are frequently observed in patients with alcohol use disorder, and vary widely over time, making it a challenge to determine which aspects are specifically involved in variations of serum BDNF levels in this population.

Methods: We assessed 227 patients with alcohol dependence involved in a detoxification program, at baseline and after a follow-up of 6 months, for the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test score, the length of alcohol dependence, and the number of past detoxification programs. The Beck Depression Inventory and information on current tobacco and alcohol use, suicidal ideation, body mass index, age, gender, and psychotropic treatments were also collected. Serum BDNF (ELISA) and 2 genetic polymorphisms of the BDNF gene (Val33Met and rs962369) were analyzed.

Results: The presence of the Met allele, 2 markers of the history of alcohol dependence (gamma glutamyl transferase and the number of past treatments in detoxification programs), and the presence of a depressive episode (but not depressive score) were significantly associated with the 2 blood levels of BDNF at baseline and after 6 months. After controlling for baseline BDNF levels, the presence of the Met allele and an ongoing depressive episode were the only variables associated with changes in BNDF levels after 6 months.

Conclusions: Low serum BDNF levels are associated with characteristics related to alcohol consumption and mood disorders, and variants of the BDNF gene in alcohol use disorder patients. The factors that most strongly influenced changes in serum BDNF levels following treatment in an alcohol detoxification program were variants of the BDNF gene and ongoing depression.

Keywords: Alcohol; Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor; Depression; Withdrawal.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / blood*
  • Alcoholism / genetics
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Alcoholism / therapy
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / blood*
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / genetics
  • Cohort Studies
  • Depressive Disorder / complications*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • BDNF protein, human