Mitochondrial dysfunction in bipolar disorder


Corresponding author: Tadafumi Kato, MD, Department of Neuropsychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, University of Tokyo, Hongo 7-3-1, Bunkyo, Tokyo, 113-8655, Japan. Fax: +81 3 5800 6894; e-mail:


Mitochondrial dysfunction is implicated in bipolar disorder based on the following lines of evidence: 1) Abnormal brain energy metabolism measured by 31 P-magnetic resonance spectroscopy, that is, decreased intracellular pH, decreased phosphocreatine (PCr), and enhanced response of PCr to photic stimulation. 2) Possible role of maternal inheritance in the transmission of bipolar disorder. 3) Increased levels of the 4977-bp deletion in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in autopsied brains. 4) Comorbidity of affective disorders in certain types of mitochondrial disorders, such as autosomal inherited chronic progressive external ophthalmoplegia and mitochondrial diabetes mellitus with the 3243 mutation. Based on these findings, we searched for mtDNA mutations/polymorphisms associated with bipolar disorder and found that 5178C and 10398A polymorphisms in mtDNA were risk factors for bipolar disorder. The 5178C genotype was associated with lower brain intracellular pH. mtDNA variations may play a part in the pathophysiology of bipolar disorder through alteration of intracellular calcium signaling systems. The mitochondrial dysfunction hypothesis, which comprehensively accounts for the pathophysiology of bipolar disorder, is proposed.