Alterations in cellular energy metabolism have been implicated in chronic pain suggesting a role for mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). Previous studies reported associations of a limited number of mtDNA polymorphisms with specific pain conditions. In this study, we examined the full mitochondrial genomes of people with a variety of chronic pain conditions. A discovery cohort consisting of 609 participants either with or without a complex persistent pain conditions (CPPC) was examined. mtDNA was subjected to deep sequencing for identification of rare mutations, common variants, haplogroups, and heteroplasmy associated with five CPPCs: episodic migraine, irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, vulvar vestibulitis, or temporomandibular disorders. The strongest association found was the presence of the C allele at the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) m.2352T>C (rs28358579) that significantly increased the risk for fibromyalgia (OR=4.6, P=4.3×10). This relationship was even stronger in women (OR=5.1, P=2.8×10), and m.2352T>C was associated with all other CPPCs in a consistent risk-increasing fashion. This finding was replicated in another cohort (OR=4.3, P=2.6×10) of the Orofacial Pain: Prospective Evaluation and Risk Assessment (OPPERA) study consisting of 1754 female participants. To gain insight into the cellular consequences of the associated genetic variability, we conducted an assay testing metabolic reprogramming in human cell lines with defined genotypes. The minor allele C was associated with decreased mitochondrial membrane potential under conditions where oxidative phosphorylation is required, indicating a role of oxidative phosphorylation in pathophysiology of chronic pain. Our results suggest that cellular energy metabolism, modulated by m.2352T>C, contributes to fibromyalgia and possibly other chronic pain conditions.

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