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Keywords:

  • BDNF;
  • Val66Met;
  • major depressive disorder;
  • melancholic depression;
  • neuroimaging;
  • brain morphometry;
  • treatment outcome

Background

A brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) prodomain single-nucleotide polymorphism resulting in a valine to methionine substitution (Val66Met) has been associated with depression-related phenotypes and brain alterations involving regions consistently associated with major depressive disorder (MDD).

The aim of our study was to evaluate the association of regional gray matter (GM) volume within the hippocampus and other unpredicted regions at the whole-brain level with the BDNF Val66Met polymorphism in MDD patients with melancholic features and their impact on treatment outcome.

Methods

A sample of 37 MDD inpatients was assessed with three-dimensional magnetic resonance imaging (1.5-T scanner). GM volume was analyzed with voxel-based morphometry (VBM) using Statistical Parametric Mapping (SPM5). The BDNF Val66Met variant was genotyped using SNPlex technology. MDD patients were classified according to genotype distribution under a dominant model of inheritance and thus comparing Val66 homozygotes (n = 22) versus Met66 carriers (n = 15).

Results

A significant GM volume reduction in the left hippocampus was observed in Met66 carriers. Conversely, in the same group, a volume increase in the right orbitofrontal cortex was detected. Moreover, a significant negative correlation between left hippocampal volume and days to remission was found in Val66 homozygotes, whereas right orbitofrontal volume was inversely correlated to days to remission in Met66 carriers.

Conclusions

Our results suggest that the Val66Met BDNF variant may have a differential impact on the brain structure of melancholic patients with possible treatment outcome implications.