Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in perinatal depression: Side show or pivotal factor?

Our colleagues Dr. Ruslan Paliokha and MMedSc. Eliyahu Dremencov, DrSc. have co-authored a review on Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and its role in perinatal depression published in Drug Discovery Today. Perinatal depression, with its detrimental effects on maternal and infant health, is the most common psychiatric complication of pregnancy. There is an urgent need for specific molecular biomarkers. Clinical and preclinical studies have reported pregnancy-related decreases in blood BDNF and downregulation of the brain TrkB receptor. In this review, they explore the emerging role of BDNF in reproductive biology and discuss evidence suggesting its deficiency as a risk factor for perinatal depression. The increasing association of perinatal depression with BDNF deficiency supports its potential as a surrogate endpoint for preclinical and clinical studies, given the growing evidence that antidepressant therapy restores serum BDNF levels. The figure illustrates BDNF in the peripheral circulation and its relationship to changes in stress and gonadal hormones, and to the Patient Health Questionnaire 9 (PHQ-9) score for depression during pregnancy and the early postpartum period.