Gene Expression Factor Analysis to Differentiate Pathways Linked to Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Depression in a Diverse Patient Sample

Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2016 Jan;68(1):132-40. doi: 10.1002/acr.22639.


Objective: To determine if independent candidate genes can be grouped into meaningful biologic factors, and whether these factors are associated with the diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), while controlling for comorbid depression, sex, and age.

Methods: We included leukocyte messenger RNA gene expression from a total of 261 individuals, including healthy controls (n = 61), patients with FMS only (n = 15), with CFS only (n = 33), with comorbid CFS and FMS (n = 79), and with medication-resistant (n = 42) or medication-responsive (n = 31) depression. We used exploratory factor analysis (EFA) on 34 candidate genes to determine factor scores and regression analysis to examine whether these factors were associated with specific diagnoses.

Results: EFA resulted in 4 independent factors with minimal overlap of genes between factors, explaining 51% of the variance. We labeled these factors by function as 1) purinergic and cellular modulators, 2) neuronal growth and immune function, 3) nociception and stress mediators, and 4) energy and mitochondrial function. Regression analysis predicting these biologic factors using FMS, CFS, depression severity, age, and sex revealed that greater expression in factors 1 and 3 was positively associated with CFS and negatively associated with depression severity (Quick Inventory for Depression Symptomatology score), but not associated with FMS.

Conclusion: Expression of candidate genes can be grouped into meaningful clusters, and CFS and depression are associated with the same 2 clusters, but in opposite directions, when controlling for comorbid FMS. Given high comorbid disease and interrelationships between biomarkers, EFA may help determine patient subgroups in this population based on gene expression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / genetics*
  • Depression / physiopathology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / diagnosis
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / genetics*
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / physiopathology
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / psychology
  • Female
  • Fibromyalgia / diagnosis
  • Fibromyalgia / genetics*
  • Fibromyalgia / physiopathology
  • Fibromyalgia / psychology
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • Genetic Association Studies
  • Genetic Markers
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / chemistry
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phenotype
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Young Adult


  • Genetic Markers
  • RNA, Messenger