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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Family-based association study of the BDNF, COMT and serotonin transporter genes and DSM-IV bipolar-I disorder in children

Eric Mick1*, Janet Wozniak1, Timothy E Wilens1, Joseph Biederman1 and Stephen V Faraone23

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

2 Department of Psychiatry, SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, NY, USA

3 Department of Neuroscience and Physiology, SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, NY, USA

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BMC Psychiatry 2009, 9:2  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-9-2

Published: 4 February 2009



Over the past decade pediatric bipolar disorder has gained recognition as a potentially more severe and heritable form of the disorder. In this report we test for association with genes coding brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), the serotonin transporter (SLC6A4), and catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT).


Bipolar-I affected offspring triads (N = 173) were drawn from 522 individuals with 2 parents in 332 nuclear families recruited for genetic studies of pediatric psychopathology at the Clinical and Research Program in Pediatric Psychopharmacology and Adult ADHD at Massachusetts General Hospital.


We failed to identify an association with the val66 allele in BDNF (OR = 1.23, p = 0.36), the COMT-l allele (OR = 1.27, p = 0.1), or the HTTLPR short allele (OR = 0.87, p = 0.38).


Our study suggests that the markers examined thus far in COMT and SLC6A4 are not associated with pediatric bipolar disorder and that if the val66met marker in BDNF is associated with pediatric bipolar disorder the magnitude of the association is much smaller than first reported.