Phylogenetic analysis of the mitochondrial genome indicates significant differences between patients with Alzheimer disease and controls in a French-Canadian founder population.

The activity of cytochrome oxidase (CO), the terminal enzyme of the mitochondrial electron transport chain, has been reported to be lower in the brains of Alzheimer disease (AD) patients. This suggests that a modification of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) may be responsible for this decrease of CO activity. Many mtDNA variants were found by different studies at a higher frequency in AD patients, suggesting that mtDNA variants could confer a genetic susceptibility to AD.

In this study, we sequenced the entire mitochondrial genome region that encompasses the three CO genes and the 22 mitochondrial tRNA in 69 AD patients and 83 age-matched controls. We detected a total of 95 mtDNA variants. The allele frequencies of the majority of these variants were similar in patients and controls. However, a haplotype composed of three different modifications (positions: 5633, 7476, and 15812) was present in three of the 69 late-onset AD patients (4.3%) and also in 1 of 16 early-onset AD patients (6.2%) but not in control individuals.

Given that one of these variants (15812) has already been shown to be associated with another neurodegenerative disease and that all three modifications are relatively conserved and their frequencies in the general population is only 0.1%, our data suggest that the presence of this haplotype may represent a risk factor for AD. We also found a significant association (P < 0.05) of two other variants at positions 709 (rRNA 12S) and 15928 (tRNA(Thr)). These two mtDNA variants are three times more frequent in control individuals compared with AD patients, suggesting that they may be protective against AD.

Source: Am J Med Genet 1999 Jul 2;85(1):20-30

PMID: 10377009, UI: 99303502

(Algene Biotechnologies, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. )

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