The Impact of BDNF Polymorphisms on Suicidality in Treatment-Resistant Major Depressive Disorder: A European Multicenter Study

Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2017 Oct 1;20(10):782-787. doi: 10.1093/ijnp/pyx028.


Background: Numerous studies have reported associations between the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) gene and psychiatric disorders, including suicidal behavior, although with conflicting results.

Methods: A total of 250 major depressive disorder patients were collected in the context of a European multicenter resistant depression study and treated with antidepressants at adequate doses for at least 4 weeks. Suicidality was assessed using the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview and Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, and treatment response using the HAM-D. Genotyping was performed for the functional Val66Met polymorphism (rs6265) and 7 additional tagging single nucleotide polymorphisms within the BDNF gene.

Results: Neither BDNF single markers nor haplotypes were found to be associated with suicide risk and lifetime history of suicide attempts. Gender-specific analyses revealed nonsignificant single marker (rs908867) and haplotypic association with suicide risk in males after multiple testing correction. Analyzing treatment response phenotypes, the functional Val66Met polymorphism as well as rs10501087 showed significant genotypic and haplotypic association with suicide risk in remitters (n=34, 13.6%).

Conclusions: Considering the sample size, the present findings need to be replicated in larger samples to confirm or refute a role of BDNF in the investigated suicidal behavior phenotypes.

Keywords: BDNF; depression; pharmacogenetic; suicidality.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / genetics*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / drug therapy
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / genetics*
  • Depressive Disorder, Treatment-Resistant / drug therapy
  • Depressive Disorder, Treatment-Resistant / genetics*
  • Europe
  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Female
  • Genetic Association Studies
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Genotyping Techniques
  • Haplotypes
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Sex Factors
  • Suicide*


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • BDNF protein, human