Narcolepsy type 1 (NT1) is due to selective loss of hypocretin (hcrt)-producing-neurons. Hcrt is a neuropeptide regulating the sleep/wake cycle, as well as feeding behavior. A subset of NT1 patients become overweight/obese, with a dysmetabolic phenotype. We hypothesized that mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequence variation might contribute to the metabolic features in NT1 and we undertook an exploratory survey of mtDNA haplogroups in a cohort of well-characterized patients. We studied 246 NT1 Italian patients, fully defined for their metabolic features, including obesity, hypertension, low HDL, hypertriglyceridemia and hyperglycemia. For haplogroup assignment, the mtDNA control region was sequenced in combination with an assessment of diagnostic markers in the coding region. NT1 patients displayed the same mtDNA haplogroups (H, HV, J, K, T, U) frequency as those reported in the general Italian population. The majority of NT1 patients (64%) were overweight: amongst these, 35% were obese, 48% had low HDL cholesterol levels, and 31% had hypertriglyceridemia. We identified an association between haplogroups J, K and hypertriglyceridemia (P = 0.03, 61.5% and 61.5%, respectively vs. 31.3% of the whole sample) and after correction for age and sex, we observed a reduction of these associations (OR = 3.65, 95%CI = 0.76-17.5, p = 0.106 and 1.73, 0.52-5.69, p = 0.368, respectively). The low HDL level showed a trend for association with haplogroup J (P = 0.09, 83.3% vs. 47.4% of the whole sample) and after correction we observed an OR = 6.73, 95%CI = 0.65-69.9, p = 0.110. Our study provides the first indication that mtDNA haplogroups J and K can modulate metabolic features of NT1 patients, linking mtDNA variation to the dysmetabolic phenotype in NT1.
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