A previous study reported that social stress sensitivity is moderated by the brain-derived-neurotrophic-factor(Va166Met) (BDNF rs6265) genotype. Additionally, positive emotions partially neutralize this moderating effect. The current study aimed to: (i) replicate in a new independent sample of subjects with residual depressive symptoms the moderating effect of BDNFVa66Met genotype on social stress sensitivity, (ii) replicate the neutralizing impact of positive emotions, (iii) extend these analyses to other variations in the BDNF gene in the new independent sample and the original sample of non-depressed individuals.
Previous findings were replicated in an experience sampling method (ESM) study. Negative Affect (NA) responses to social stress were stronger in "Val/Met" carriers of BDNFVal66Met compared to "Val/Val" carriers. Positive emotions neutralized the moderating effect of BDNFVal66Met genotype on social stress sensitivity in a dose-response fashion. Finally, two of four additional BDNF SNPs (rs11030101, rs2049046) showed similar moderating effects on social stress-sensitivity across both samples. The neutralizing effect of positive emotions on the moderating effects of these two additional SNPs was found in one sample.
In conclusion, ESM has important advantages in gene-environment (GxE) research and may attribute to more consistent findings in future GxE research. This study shows how the impact of BDNF genetic variation on depressive symptoms may be explained by its impact on subtle daily life responses to social stress. Further, it shows that the generation of positive affect (PA) can buffer social stress sensitivity and partially undo the genetic susceptibility. (C) 2014 Elsevier B.V. and ECNP. All rights reserved.