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Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) seems to play an important role in the course of depression including the response to antidepressants in patients with depression. We aimed to study the effect of an antidepressant intervention on peripheral BDNF in healthy individuals with a family history of depression.
We measured changes in BDNF messenger RNA (mRNA) expression and whole-blood BDNF levels in 80 healthy first-degree relatives of patients with depression randomly allocated to receive daily tablets of escitalopram 10 mg versus placebo for 4 weeks.
We found no statistically significant difference between the escitalopram and the placebo group in the change in BDNF mRNA expression and whole-blood BDNF levels. Post hoc analyses showed a statistically significant negative correlation between plasma escitalopram concentration and change in whole-blood BDNF levels in the escitalopram-treated group.
The results of this randomised trial suggest that escitalopram 10 mg has no effect on peripheral BDNF levels in healthy individuals.
Objective: There is clear evidence of a genetic component in major depression, and several studies indicate that neuropeptide Y (NPY) could play an important role in the pathophysiology of the disease. A well-known polymorphism encoding the substitution of leucine to proline in the signal peptide sequence of NPY (Leu7Pro variation) was previously found to protect against depression. Our study aimed at replicating this association in a large Danish population with major depression.
Method: Leu7Pro was studied in a sample of depressed patients and ethnically matched controls, as well as psychiatric disease controls with schizophrenia. Possible functional consequences of Leu7Pro were explored in vitro.
Results: In contrast to previous studies, Pro7 appeared to be a risk allele for depression, being significantly more frequent in the depression sample (5.5%, n = 593; p = 0.009; odds ratio, OR: 1.46) as compared to ethnically matched controls (3.8%, n = 2912), while schizophrenia patients (4.1%, n = 503) did not differ. In vitro, the Pro7 substitution appeared to be associated with reduced levels of NPY without affecting its mRNA level.
Conclusion: The Leu7Pro variation may increase the risk of major depression, possibly by affecting the biosynthesis of NPY.
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