Clinical Psychopharmacology and Neuroscience 2009; 7(2): 63  
BDNF and Obesity in the WAGR Syndrome
Kenji Hashimoto
Division of Clinical Neuroscience, Chiba University Center for Forensic Mental Health, Chiba, Japan
© The Korean College of Neuropsychopharmacology. All rights reserved.

A growing body of evidence suggests that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) plays an important role in the pathophysiology of neuropsychiatric diseases, including major depressive disorder, eating disorders and autism, as well as in the mechanisms of antidepressant drugs.1-4) Recently, Han et al.5) reported that the haploinsufficiency of the BDNF gene (chromosome 11p13) was associated with lower levels of serum BDNF levels and with childhood-onset obesity among individuals who were predisposed to Wilms tumor, aniridia, genitourinary anomalies and mental retardation (WAGR syndrome). The WAGR syndrome is caused by heterozygous contiguous gene deletions involving at least two genes, WT1 and PAX6, present in the 11p13 region. These genes are positioned approximately 4 Mb centromeric to the BDNF locus at 11p14.1. Haploinsufficiency for WT1 and PAX6 has been observed in all patients with the WAGR syndrome and accounts for the common oncogenic, ocular and genitourinary features of the syndrome.5) BDNF plays a role in the pathophysiology of such neuropsychiatric diseases as major depressive disorder, in addition to its role with regard to energy homeostasis.1,4) Serum BDNF levels in patients with major depressive disorder were significantly lower than those of healthy controls and a negative correlation between serum BDNF levels and the severity of depressive symptoms has been documented.6) A recent meta-analytic study provided strong evidence that serum BDNF levels were abnormally low in patients suffering from depression and that serum BDNF levels were elevated following a course of antidepressant treatment.4) A wide variety of behavioral and psychiatric abnormalities (e.g., depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity, autism) characterize individuals with the WAGR syndrome.7) Therefore, the association between serum BDNF levels (or haploinsufficiency of the BDNF gene) and behavioral abnormalities in persons with the WAGR syndrome has emerged as an area of great interest.

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