Serum and plasma brain-derived neurotrophic factor and response in a randomized controlled trial of riluzole for treatment resistant depression

J Affect Disord. 2018 Dec 1;241:514-518. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2018.08.075. Epub 2018 Aug 18.


Background: Serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is decreased in individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD). Pre-clinical and clinical reports suggest that the glutamate release inhibitor riluzole increases BDNF and may have antidepressant properties. Here we report serum (sBDNF) and plasma (pBDNF) levels from a randomized controlled, adjunctive, sequential parallel comparison design trial of riluzole in MDD.

Methods: Serum and plasma BDNF samples were drawn at baseline and weeks 6 and 8 from 55 subjects randomized to adjunctive treatment with riluzole or placebo for 8 weeks.

Results: Riluzole responders had lower baseline serum (19.08 ng/ml [SD 9.22] v. 28.80 ng/ml [9.63], p = 0.08) and plasma (2.72 ng/ml [1.07] v. 4.60 ng/ml [1.69], p = 0.06) BDNF compared to non-responders at a trend level. This pattern was nominally seen in placebo responders for baseline pBDNF to some degree (1.21 ng/ml [SD 1.29] v. 3.58 ng/ml [SD 1.67], p = 0.12) but not in baseline sBDNF.

Limitations: A number of limitations warrant comment, including the small sample size of viable BDNF samples and the small number of riluzole responders.

Conclusions: Preliminary evidence reported here suggests that lower baseline BDNF may be associated with better clinical response to riluzole.

Keywords: BDNF; MDD; Riluzole.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / blood*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / drug therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / physiopathology
  • Depressive Disorder, Treatment-Resistant / drug therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder, Treatment-Resistant / physiopathology
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Plasma
  • Riluzole / therapeutic use*
  • Serum
  • Young Adult


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists
  • Riluzole