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Am J Hum Genet. 1999 Aug;65(2):508-18.

Mitochondrial genetic analyses suggest selection against maternal lineages in bipolar affective disorder.

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  • 1Department of Medical Genetics, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom.


Previous reports of preferential transmission of bipolar affective disorder (BP) from the maternal versus the paternal lines in families suggested that this disorder may be caused by mitochondrial DNA mutations. We have sequenced the mitochondrial genome in 25 BP patients with family histories of psychiatric disorder that suggest matrilineal inheritance. No polymorphism identified more than once in this sequencing showed any significant association with BP in association studies using 94 cases and 94 controls. To determine whether our BP sample showed evidence of selection against the maternal lineage, we determined genetic distances between all possible pairwise comparisons within the BP and control groups, based on multilocus mitochondrial polymorphism haplotypes. These analyses revealed fewer closely related haplotypes in the BP group than in the matched control group, suggesting selection against maternal lineages in this disease. Such selection is compatible with recurrent mitochondrial mutations, which are associated with slightly decreased fitness. Although such mismatch distribution comparisons have been used previously for analyses of population histories, this is, as far as we are aware, the first report of this method being used to study disease.

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