BDNF is the best-characterized neurotrophin in terms of its gene structure and modulation, secretion processing, and signaling cascades following its release. In addition to diverse features at the genetic and molecular levels, the abundant expression in several regions of the central nervous system has implicated BDNF as a potent modulator in many aspects of neuronal development, as well as synaptic transmission and plasticity. Impairments in any of these critical functions likely contribute to a wide array of neurodevelopmental, neurodegenerative, and neuropsychiatric diseases. In this review, we focus on a prevalent neurodevelopmental disorder, Rett syndrome (RTT), which afflicts 1:15,000 women world-wide. We describe the consequences of loss-of-function mutations in the gene encoding the transcription factor methyl-CpG binding protein 2 (MeCP2) in RTT, and then elaborate on the current understanding of how MeCP2 controls BDNF expression. Finally, we discuss the literature regarding alterations in BDNF levels in RTT individuals and MeCP2-based mouse models, as well as recent progress in searching for rational therapeutic interventions. This article is part of the Special Issue entitled 'BDNF Regulation of Synaptic Structure, Function, and Plasticity'. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.