JOURNAL ARTICLE

The Role of the Val66Met Polymorphism of the Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor Gene in Coping Strategies Relevant to Depressive Symptoms

Warren Caldwell, Opal A McInnis, Robyn J McQuaid, Gele Liu, John D Stead, Hymie Anisman, Shawn Hayley
PloS One 2013, 8 (6): e65547
23824678
Disturbances of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) signalling have been implicated in the evolution of depression, which likely arises, in part, as a result of diminished synaptic plasticity. Predictably, given stressor involvement in depression, BDNF is affected by recent stressors as well as stressors such as neglect experienced in early life. The effects of early life maltreatment in altering BDNF signalling may be particularly apparent among those individuals with specific BDNF polymorphisms. We examined whether polymorphisms of the Val66Met genotype might be influential in moderating how early-life events play out with respect to later coping styles, cognitive flexibility and depressive features. Among male and female undergraduate students (N = 124), childhood neglect was highly related to subsequent depressive symptoms. This outcome was moderated by the BDNF polymorphism in the sense that depressive symptoms appeared higher in Met carriers who reported low levels of neglect than in those with the Val/Val allele. However, under conditions of high neglect depressive symptoms only increased in the Val/Val individuals. In effect, the Met polymorphism was associated with depressive features, but did not interact with early life neglect in predicting later depressive features. It was further observed that among the Val/Val individuals, the relationship between neglect and depression was mediated by emotion-focused styles and diminished perceived control, whereas this mediation was not apparent in Met carriers. In contrast to the more typical view regarding this polymorphism, the data are consistent with the perspective that in the presence of synaptic plasticity presumably associated with the Val/Val genotype, neglect allows for the emergence of specific appraisal and coping styles, which are tied to depression. In the case of the reduced degree of neuroplasticity expected in the Met carriers, early life adverse experiences are not tied to coping styles, and hence less likely to be translated into depressive states.

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