Background: Alcohol dependence is a chronic relapsing disorder characterized by repetitive alcohol drinking patterns and a loss of control over alcohol consumption. Recent studies have hypothesized that dysregulations in brain neurotrophic support regulated by neurotrophins may be involved in the vulnerability to dependence and in the brain damage caused by chronic alcohol consumption. The neurotrophin brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) plays a pivotal role in neurodevelopment and in the maintenance of adult brain homeostasis through the regulation of neurogenesis and neuronal plasticity. The role of BDNF and its signaling in the mechanisms of alcohol dependence has been well documented in studies of animal models, but a few studies have been conducted in human peripheral tissues. On the basis of this rationale, we compared BDNF levels in both serum and plasma in alcohol-dependent patients and healthy volunteers.
Methods: Thirty-seven patients with a principal diagnosis of alcohol dependence were recruited. In parallel, a control group of 37 unrelated volunteers matched for gender and age was enrolled. Serum and plasma BDNF levels were measured by ELISA.
Results: A significant reduction in BDNF serum levels was observed in the patient group compared to healthy subjects (p = 0.028). On the contrary, no difference in BDNF plasma levels was evident between patients and controls.
Conclusions: In conclusion, our data show an alteration of BDNF peripheral content in patients with alcohol dependence, suggesting the involvement of this neurotrophin in this psychopathology.