Molecular genetic evidence for heterogeneity in manic depression

Nature. 1987;325(6107):805-6. doi: 10.1038/325805a0.


Manic depression is a severe cyclic mental illness that can be unipolar or bipolar and has a lifetime risk of approximately 7 per 1,000 in most populations. Families with multiple cases of manic depression have been described that are compatible with both autosomal dominant and X-linked modes of genetic transmission. Psychoactive antidepressant and stimulant drugs that help to ameliorate depression and mania are thought to act by affecting catecholamine neurotransmitter systems such as adrenaline, noradrenaline and dopamine, amongst others. Mutations affecting the tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) gene, which encodes the rate-limiting enzyme for the synthesis of these three neurotransmitters, might therefore be responsible for causing the manic depressive phenotype. We have studied three Icelandic kindreds amongst whom it appears that a single autosomal dominant disease allele is segregating. In these families there were 44 cases amongst 73 individuals at risk. Genetic linkage studies were carried out using clones encoding tyrosine hydroxylase the variable portion of the Harvey-ras-1 (HRAS1) locus and the variable region of the insulin gene (INS). All three markers are closely linked on chromosome 11 and were used to observe the segregation of restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLPs) in the three affected kindreds. We found no evidence for linkage to these markers in any of the three families. In contrast, Gerhard et al. found linkage between manic depression and HRAS1 in a single large Amish kindred. We conclude that there is genetic heterogeneity of linkage in manic depression. Therefore mutations at different loci are responsible for the manic depressive phenotype in the Amish and in Iceland.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bipolar Disorder / ethnology
  • Bipolar Disorder / genetics*
  • Christianity
  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 11
  • DNA / genetics
  • Depressive Disorder / ethnology
  • Depressive Disorder / genetics*
  • Ethnicity
  • Genetic Linkage
  • Genetic Markers
  • Humans
  • Iceland
  • Mutation
  • Nucleic Acid Hybridization
  • Pedigree
  • Pennsylvania
  • Polymorphism, Restriction Fragment Length


  • Genetic Markers
  • DNA