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A high predisposition to depression and anxiety in mothers and other matrilineal relatives of children with presumed maternally inherited mitochondrial disorders.

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Division of Medical Genetics and the Saban Research Institute, Children's Hospital Los Angeles, 4650 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90027, USA.


Although mothers of chronically ill children are generally prone to depression and anxiety, clinical observation suggests that these symptoms are relatively increased in mothers of children with maternally inherited mitochondrial disorders (MIMD). In this study, the Beck Depression Inventory II (BDI), the Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI), and a non-standardized mental health questionnaire were administered to 15 mothers of children with MIMD and 17 mothers of children with autosomal recessive metabolic disorders (ARMD) followed in one clinic. One half of the children in both groups suffer from mental retardation and/or > or = 2 hospitalizations/year related to their genetic disorder, and were labeled as severely affected. BDI and BAI scores were similar between mothers of severely affected MIMD and ARMD children, but BDI and BAI scores were threefold higher in mothers of mildly affected MIMD versus ARMD children (P = 0.001 and P = 0.003, respectively). Any mental health condition was self-reported in 10/15 MIMD and 2/17 ARMD mothers (P = 0.002), while at least one mental health condition per family was reported to be present in a matrilineal first-degree relative of the mother in 8/15 MIMD versus 1/17 ARMD families (P = 0.004). Our data confirm that mental health conditions, particularly depression, are diagnosed at an increased frequency among matrilineal relatives likely sharing the same mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) as the affected proband. While previous studies have demonstrated that mtDNA sequences can affect brain function, our data suggests that in addition mtDNA sequences can predispose individuals towards the development of some "mental health" disorders. Thus, "genome-wide" studies to screen for genes associated with depression and anxiety should not neglect the small, yet important, mitochondrial genome.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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