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BDNF Val66Met polymorphism and stressful life events in melancholic childhood-onset depression

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Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) polymorphisms have been examined for their contribution toward depression with equivocal results. More homogeneous phenotypes might be used to improve our understanding of genetic liability to depression. The aim of our study was to (a) test for an association between the BDNF Val66Met polymorphism and childhood-onset melancholic depression and (b) to examine the interactive effects of stressful life events (SLE) and the Val66Met polymorphism on the risk of childhood-onset melancholic depression.

Materials and methods

A total of 583 depressed probands were involved in this study (162 of the melancholic subtype). Diagnoses were derived through the Interview Schedule for Children and Adolescents – Diagnostic Version and life event data were collected using an Intake General Information Sheet.


Overall, 27.8% of the participants fulfilled the criteria for melancholy. In the melancholic group, the proportion of females was higher (53.1%), although there were more males in the overall depressed sample. We detected no significant differences in genotype or allele frequency between the melancholic and the nonmelancholic depressed group. The BDNF Val66Met polymorphism and SLE interaction was not significantly associated with the melancholy outcome.


In our study, females were more prone to developing the early-onset melancholic phenotype. To our knowledge, this is the first study to investigate the differentiating effect of the genotype and the G×E interaction on the melancholic phenotype in a large sample of depressed young patients. We did not find an association between the melancholic subtype of major depression and the BDNF genotype and SLE interaction in this sample, which is representative of the Hungarian clinic-referred population of depressed youths.
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Keywords: brain-derived neurotrophic factor; children; extrafamilial life events; homogeneous phenotype; melancholic depression

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Unit, Department of Pediatrics 2: Department of Psychiatry, University of Szeged, Szeged, Hungary 3: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, University of Toronto 4: University Health Network, Toronto Western Research Institute, Toronto, Ontario, Canada 5: Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

Publication date: December 1, 2015

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