Higher serum nerve growth factor levels are associated with major depressive disorder pathophysiology: a case-control study

J Int Med Res. 2023 Apr;51(4):3000605231166222. doi: 10.1177/03000605231166222.


Objective: There is a lack of established biological, psychological, social, and digital markers for the prediction, identification, and stratification of patients with major depressive disorder (MDD). We therefore aimed to evaluate serum nerve growth factor (NGF) in MDD patients.

Methods: In this case-control study, we recruited MDD patients and age- and sex-matched healthy controls (HCs). A qualified psychiatrist evaluated study participants according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition. Serum NGF levels were analyzed using a commercially available enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay kit.

Results: We analyzed data from 106 MDD patients and 88 HCs. Mean serum NGF concentrations were significantly higher in MDD patients (104.70 ± 6.43 pg/mL) than in HCs (72.09 ± 7.69 pg/mL). Receiver operating characteristic curve analysis revealed the good diagnostic performance of serum NGF in MDD.

Conclusions: Higher serum NGF levels might be involved in MDD pathophysiology, and altered NGF levels may be an early warning sign of depression. The present findings will aid in the development of new and improved therapies for depressive patients. Further interventional studies are recommended to explore the underlying mechanisms, risk factors, disease course, and treatment responses of NGF in MDD.

Keywords: Major depressive disorder; NGF; depression; depressive disorder; nerve growth factor; neurotrophin.

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Depressive Disorder, Major* / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder, Major* / psychology
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Humans
  • Nerve Growth Factor
  • Risk Factors


  • Nerve Growth Factor