OBJECTIVE: Data suggest the involvement of serotonergic and neurotrophic systems in major depressive disorder. To investigate their potential interaction, the authors studied changes in serum levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) during tryptophan depletion and sham depletion in unmedicated patients with remitted major depressive disorder and in a group of healthy comparison subjects. METHOD: Twenty-seven patients with remitted major depressive disorder and 20 healthy subjects underwent tryptophan depletion and sham depletion in a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind crossover study. Serum BDNF concentrations and plasma tryptophan concentrations as well as behavioral assessments were obtained. RESULTS: During tryptophan depletion, BDNF levels increased in healthy volunteers. By contrast, patients with remitted major depressive disorder were unable to mount this presumed compensatory response, and BDNF levels remained low in these patients. CONCLUSIONS: The results further substantiate the potential role of BDNF in major depressive disorder.