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

Annamaria Cattaneo, Luisella Bocchio-Chiavetto, Roberta Zanardini, Elena Milanesi, Anna Placentino, Massimo Gennarelli
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1461145709990812 103-108 First published online: 1 February 2010


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.

Key words
  • BDNF
  • escitalopram
  • leukocytes
  • major depression
  • serum
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