Inherited Narcolepsy Links MS, Other Neuropsychiatric Disorders Via Mutated Gene

Researchers may have found a link between a condition called narcolepsy with other neuropsychiatric disorders and possibly with multiple sclerosis via a mutation found in a gene associated with the production of myelin. Researchers from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland and the Gregorio Maranon University Hospital in Madrid, Spain have been able to discover a certain type of mutation found in the myelin oligodendrocyte gene or MOG that may be causing narcolepsy.

Narcolepsy is a condition characterized by an excessive urge to sleep at any time or place. Those who suffer from the condition may also suffer from cataplexy, a condition characterized by sudden muscle weakness triggered by strong emotions. Although considered as a rare disorder, narcolepsy is, by and large, little understood because it can be so difficult to study. But the researchers have found the means to gradually understand how this disorder may affect people.

The researchers studied a family known to suffer from inherited narcolepsy. They found a family with 12 members affected by narcolepsy and conducted a genetic analysis on them. The researchers went on to further provide sensitive analysis to 3 members with narcolepsy and cataplexy.

In the ensuing study, the researchers found out that the MOG in family members affected by narcolepsy had a mutation that was not found in other unaffected family members as well as other unrelated controls. Oligodendrocytes are cells that are known to produce myelin, a type of protein that serves an important function in the central nervous system. Myelin provides insulation to the nerve cells that allow them to send electrical signals to the brain more efficiently. It is essential to ensure the proper functioning of the body’s nervous system.

When the researchers tried to introduce the abnormal MOG into the oligodendrocyte cells in mice, they observed that the MOG protein was not properly distributed within cells. This suggests that the abnormal MOG must not be functioning properly to create such an effect.

Although futher studies are needed in order to understand the links between myelin, oligodendrocytes and narcolepsy, the findings does provide some intriguing facts since MOG has recently been linked to other neuropsychiatric disorders.

According to Dr. Mehdi Tafti from the University of Lausanne and co-author of the said study, “Gene-expression studies in major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and multiple sclerosis indicate that genes expressed in oligodendrocytes are downregulated, supporting the hypothesis that problems with oligodendrocytes might cause neurodevelopmental disorders.”

“The identification of a mutation in MOG, so far unique to our family, not only provides insight into the pathogenesis of narcolepsy but also highlights the role of myelin and oligodendrocytes in disease susceptibility in other complex neuropsychiatric disorders,” Dr. Tafti further adds.

Findings of the study was published by Cell Press on the Sept. 8 issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics.

Source: Cell Press (2011, September 9). Mutation links inherited narcolepsy with multiple neuropsychiatric disorders. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 12, 2011, from

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