Original Investigation

Human Genetics

, Volume 119, Issue 3, pp 241-254

First online:

Does the mitochondrial genome play a role in the etiology of Alzheimer’s disease?

  • Joanna L. ElsonAffiliated withMitochondrial Research Group, School of Neurology, Neurobiology, and Psychiatry, The University of Newcastle upon Tyne
  • , Corinna HerrnstadtAffiliated withMitoKor Inc. (now MIGENIX Corp.)
  • , Gwen PrestonAffiliated withMitoKor Inc. (now MIGENIX Corp.)
  • , Leon ThalAffiliated withDepartment of Neurosciences, University of California San Diego
  • , Christopher M. MorrisAffiliated withInstitute for the Health of the Elderly, Newcastle General Hospital
  • , J. A. EdwardsonAffiliated withInstitute for the Health of the Elderly, Newcastle General Hospital
  • , M. Flint BealAffiliated withDepartment of Neurology, Cornell University Medical College
  • , Douglass M. TurnbullAffiliated withMitochondrial Research Group, School of Neurology, Neurobiology, and Psychiatry, The University of Newcastle upon TyneMRC/University of Newcastle upon Tyne Development Centre for Clinical Brain Ageing
  • , Neil HowellAffiliated withMIGENIX Corp.Department of Radiation Oncology, The University of Texas Medical Branch Email author 

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Abstract

We report here the analyses of complete mtDNA coding region sequences from more than 270 Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients and normal controls to determine if inherited mtDNA mutations contribute to the etiology of AD. The AD patients and normal individuals were carefully screened and drawn from two populations of European descent in an effort to avoid spurious effects due to local population anomalies. Overall, there were no significant haplogroup associations in the combined AD and normal control sequence sets. Reduced median network analysis revealed that the AD mtDNA sequences contained a higher number of substitutions in tRNA genes, and that there was an elevated frequency of replacement substitutions in the complex I genes of the control sequences. Analysis of the replacement substitutions indicated that those arising in the AD mtDNAs were no more deleterious, on average, than those in the control mtDNAs. The only evidence for the synergistic action of mutations was the presence of both a rare non-conservative replacement substitution and a tRNA mutation in 2 AD mtDNAs, from a total of 145, whereas such a combination of mutations was not observed in the control sequences. Overall, the results reported here indicate that pathogenic inherited mtDNA mutations do not constitute a major etiological factor in sporadic AD. At most, a small proportion of AD patients carry a pathogenic mtDNA mutation and a small proportion of cognitively normal aged individuals carry a mtDNA mutation that reduces the risk of AD.