Greenwald, Mar K; Steinmiller, Caren L; Sliwerska, Elzbieta; Lundahl, Leslie; Burmeister, Margit
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) Val(66)Met genotype has been associated with neurobehavioral deficits. To examine its relevance for addiction, we examined BDNF genotype differences in drug-seeking behavior. Heroin-dependent volunteers (n = 128) completed an interview that assessed past-month naturalistic drug-seeking/use behaviors. In African Americans (n = 74), the Met allele was uncommon (carrier frequency 6.8%); thus, analyses focused on European Americans (n = 54), in whom the Met allele was common (carrier frequency 37.0%). In their natural setting, Met carriers (n = 20) reported more time- and cost-intensive heroin-seeking and more cigarette use than Val homozygotes (n = 34). BDNF Val(66)Met genotype predicted 18.4% of variance in 'weekly heroin investment' (purchasing time × amount × frequency). These data suggest that the BDNF Met allele may confer a 'preferred drug-invested' phenotype, resistant to moderating effects of higher drug prices and non-drug reinforcement. These preliminary hypothesis-generating findings require replication, but are consistent with pre-clinical data that demonstrate neurotrophic influence in drug reinforcement. Whether this genotype is relevant to other abused substances besides opioids or nicotine, or treatment response, remains to be determined.