The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology

Thematic Section: New Aspects in the Treatment of Affective Disorders

Reduced peripheral brain-derived neurotrophic factor mRNA levels are normalized by antidepressant treatment

Annamaria Cattaneoa1*, Luisella Bocchio-Chiavettoa2 c1*, Roberta Zanardinia2, Elena Milanesia1a3, Anna Placentinoa4 and Massimo Gennarellia1a3

a1 Genetics Unit, IRCCS San Giovanni di Dio, Fatebenefratelli, Brescia, Italy

a2 Neuropsychopharmacology Unit, IRCCS San Giovanni di Dio, Fatebenefratelli, Brescia, Italy

a3 Division of Biology and Genetics, Department of Biomedical Sciences and Biotechnology, University of Brescia, Brescia, Italy

a4 Psychiatric Unit, IRCCS San Giovanni di Dio, Fatebenefratelli, Brescia, Italy


Consistent data coming from biochemical studies have evidenced a brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) serum reduction in depressed patients compared to controls and a restoration following antidepressant treatment. However, to date, no study has evaluated whether BDNF synthesis in leukocytes could contribute to such modulation. Therefore, in this study, we analysed BDNF mRNA levels in leukocytes from 21 depressed patients prior to and during escitalopram treatment and from 23 control subjects showing that BDNF mRNA levels were decreased in drug-free depressed patients and that 12 wk escitalopram treatment was able to reverse this deficit. Interestingly, changes in BDNF mRNA levels paralleled BDNF serum increase during antidepressant treatment, and were correlated with symptoms improvement. Our results indicate that BDNF serum modulation observed in depressed patients is associated with BDNF synthesis alteration in leukocytes and suggest that these peripheral cells might play an active role in the mechanisms of action of antidepressants.

(Received June 05 2009)

(Reviewed August 05 2009)

(Revised September 01 2009)

(Accepted September 17 2009)

(Online publication October 19 2009)


* These authors contributed equally to this work.