Researchers have reported that serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor (sBDNF) of drug-free depressed patients are lower than those of healthy controls and proposed that low sBDNF levels might reflect failure of neuronal plasticity in depression. In this study, we compared sBDNF levels of depressed patients (n = 28) before and after 8 weeks of antidepressant treatment, with those of healthy controls (n = 18) to test the hypothesis that initially low sBDNF levels of drug-free depressed patients will increase parallel with their clinical response to antidepressant treatment. The severity of depression and response to treatment were assessed with Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D). sBDNF was assayed with the sandwich ELISA method. Baseline sBDNF levels of patients (mean, 20.8 ng/ml; [S.D., 6.7]) were significantly lower than those of controls (mean, 26.8 ng/ml; [S.D., 9.3]; p = 0.015), and were negatively correlated with HAM-D scores (r = -0.49, p = 0.007). After 8 weeks of treatment, sBDNF levels of patients had increased significantly (mean, 33.3 ng/ml; [S.D., 9.9]; p < 0.001) and no longer differed from those of controls. These results support the hypothesis that BDNF might play a critical role in the pathophysiology of major depressive disorder and successful antidepressant treatment increases the attenuated BDNF levels in depressed patients.