© 2014 The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, Inc. METHODS. Preterm infants in the discovery cohort were enrolled through the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Neonatal Research Network, and those in the replication cohort were from the University of Iowa. All infants were phenotyped for ROP severity. Because of differences in the durations of enrollment between cohorts, severe ROP was defined as threshold disease in the discovery cohort and as threshold disease or type 1 ROP in the replication cohort. Whole genome amplified DNA from stored blood spot samples from the Neonatal Research Network biorepository was genotyped using an Illumina GoldenGate platform for candidate gene single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) involving angiogenic, developmental, inflammatory, and oxidative pathways. Three analyses were performed to determine significant epidemiologic variables and SNPs associated with levels of ROP severity. Analyses controlled for multiple comparisons, ancestral eigenvalues, family relatedness, and significant epidemiologic variables. Single nucleotide polymorphisms significantly associated with ROP severity from the discovery cohort were analyzed in the replication cohort and in meta-analysis.PURPOSE. To determine genetic variants associated with severe retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) in a candidate gene cohort study of US preterm infants.RESULTS. Eight hundred seventeen infants in the discovery cohort and 543 in the replication cohort were analyzed. Severe ROP occurred in 126 infants in the discovery and in 14 in the replication cohort. In both cohorts, ventilation days and seizure occurrence were associated with severe ROP. After controlling for significant factors and multiple comparisons, two intronic SNPs in the gene BDNF (rs7934165 and rs2049046, P < 3.1 × 10–5) were associated with severe ROP in the discovery cohort and were not associated with severe ROP in the replication cohort. However, when the cohorts were analyzed together in an exploratory meta-analysis, rs7934165 increased in associated significance with severe ROP (P = 2.9 × 10–7).CONCLUSIONS. Variants in BDNF encoding brain-derived neurotrophic factor were associated with severe ROP in a large candidate gene study of infants with threshold ROP.