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J Affect Disord. 2005 Sep;88(1):109-16.

Mitochondrial inheritance in depression, dysmotility and migraine?

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Division of Medical Genetics and the Saban Research Institute, Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, CA 90027, USA.



Several studies have reported a high degree of association of the common conditions of depression, bowel dysmotility and migraine. Mitochondrial dysfunction and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequence variants have been linked individually to each of these three conditions, providing a plausible hypothesis for the reported association. If this hypothesis is correct, the matrilineal relatives (who all share essentially the same mtDNA sequence) of patients with mitochondrial disease secondary to inherited mtDNA mutations would be expected to have an elevated prevalence of each of these three conditions.


Families were recruited by an advertisement posted on the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation website and invited to participate in an on-line questionnaire if at least one member was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease by a physician. Based upon the reported family histories, families were assigned by the investigators to either the probable maternal inheritance (PMI) group (55 families) or the probable non-maternal inheritance (PnMI) group (111 families).


Bowel disorders, migraine and depression were reported at very high prevalence in the PMI mothers (60%, 54% and 51%, respectively), but were present at significantly lower prevalence rates among the PnMI mothers (16%, 26% and 12%; P<0.0001 for each) and the fathers of both groups (range 9-16%; P < 2 x 10(-6) for each). Similar data was obtained comparing the prevalence rates among maternal and paternal grandmothers, aunts and uncles.


Our data was obtained from families ascertained by the presence of a severely affected individual, and may not be applicable to families lacking this proband.


Depression, bowel dysmotility and migraine are common manifestations in individuals with mtDNA sequence-related mitochondrial dysfunction, which supports our hypothesis that mitochondrial dysfunction is a major common factor underlying the association of these three conditions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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