Low plasma BDNF is associated with suicidal behavior in major depression

Yong Ku Kim, Heung Pyo Lee, Sung Doo Won, Eun Young Park, Hwa Young Lee, Bun Hee Lee, Sung Woo Lee, Dokyung Yoon, Changsu Han, Dai Jin Kim, So Hyun Choi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

238 Citations (Scopus)


Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), the most abundant neurotrophin in the brain, has a known association with the pathophysiology of anxiety and depression. However, the role of BDNF in suicide has not been well investigated to date. This study examined plasma BDNF levels in 32 major depressive disorder (MDD) patients who had recently attempted suicide, 32 non-suicidal MDD patients, and 30 normal controls. The lethality of the suicide attempt was measured using the Risk-Rescue Rating (RRR) and Lethality Suicide Attempt Rating Scale (LSARS). The severity of depression was measured with the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS). Plasma BDNF levels were measured by enzyme linked immunosorbent assay. BDNF levels were significantly lower in suicidal MDD patients (430.5 ± 397.0 pg/ml) than non-suicidal MDD patients (875.80 ± 663.02 pg/ml) or normal controls (889.4 ± 611.3 pg/ml) (F = 6.682, p = 0.002). The most suitable cut-off point of BDNF level between suicidal depression and non-suicidal depression groups was 444.58 pg/ml. At this cut-off point, the sensitivity = 68.7%, specificity = 78.1%, positive predictive value = 75.9%, and negative predictive value = 71.4%. However, there was no significant difference in BDNF levels between the depressive control and normal control groups (p = 0.996). LSARS and RRR did not reveal any significant correlations with BDNF levels in suicidal patients. In addition, BDNF levels were not different between fatal and non-fatal suicide attempts. These results suggest that reduction of plasma BDNF level is related to suicidal behavior in major depression and that BDNF level may be a biological marker of suicidal depression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-85
Number of pages8
JournalProgress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007 Jan 30
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by a grant from the Korea Health 21 R&D Project, Ministry of Health and Welfare, Republic of Korea (A040042).


  • BDNF
  • Depression
  • Lethality of Suicide Attempt Rating Scale
  • Suicide
  • Weisman and Worden's Risk-Rescue Rating

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Biological Psychiatry


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