Mitochondrial deficiencies with unknown causes have been observed in schizophrenia (SZ) and bipolar disorder (BD) in imaging and postmortem studies. Polymorphisms and somatic mutations in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) were investigated as potential causes with next generation sequencing of mtDNA (mtDNA-Seq) and genotyping arrays in subjects with SZ, BD, major depressive disorder (MDD), and controls. The common deletion of 4,977 bp in mtDNA was compared between SZ and controls in 11 different vulnerable brain regions and in blood samples, and in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) of BD, SZ, and controls. In a separate analysis, association of mitochondria SNPs (mtSNPs) with SZ and BD in European ancestry individuals (n = 6,040) was tested using Genetic Association Information Network (GAIN) and Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium 2 (WTCCC2) datasets. The common deletion levels were highly variable across brain regions, with a 40-fold increase in some regions (nucleus accumbens, caudate nucleus and amygdala), increased with age, and showed little change in blood samples from the same subjects. The common deletion levels were increased in the DLPFC for BD compared to controls, but not in SZ. Full mtDNA genome resequencing of 23 subjects, showed seven novel homoplasmic mutations, five were novel synonymous coding mutations. By logistic regression analysis there were no significant mtSNPs associated with BD or SZ after genome wide correction. However, nominal association of mtSNPs (p < 0.05) to SZ and BD were found in the hypervariable region of mtDNA to T195C and T16519C. The results confirm prior reports that certain brain regions accumulate somatic mutations at higher levels than blood. The study in mtDNA of common polymorphisms, somatic mutations, and rare mutations in larger populations may lead to a better understanding of the pathophysiology of psychiatric disorders.
Keywords: bipolar disorder; common deletion; homoplasmy; mitochondria; novel mutations; schizophrenia.