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Uncoupling protein 2 (UCP2) is a mitochondrial membrane protein that plays a role in uncoupling electron transport from adenosine triphosphate (ATP) formation. Polymorphisms of the UCP2 gene in humans affect protein expression and function and have been linked to survival into old age. Since UCP2 is expressed in several brain regions, we investigated in this study whether UCP2 polymorphisms might 1) affect occurrence of neurodegenerative or mental health disorders and 2) affect measures of brain structure and function. We used structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), diffusion-weighted MRI and resting-state functional MRI in the neuroimaging sub-study of the Whitehall II cohort. Data from 536 individuals aged 60 to 83 years were analyzed. No association of UCP2 polymorphisms with the occurrence of neurodegenerative disorders or grey and white matter structure or resting-state functional connectivity was observed. However, there was a significant effect on occurrence of mood disorders in men with the minor alleles of -866G>A (rs659366) and Ala55Val (rs660339)) being associated with increasing odds of lifetime occurrence of mood disorders in a dose dependent manner. This result was not accompanied by effects of UCP2 polymorphisms on brain structure and function, which might either indicate that the sample investigated here was too small and underpowered to find any significant effects, or that potential effects of UCP2 polymorphisms on the brain are too subtle to be picked up by any of the neuroimaging measures used.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Brain, Female, Gray Matter, Haplotypes, Housing, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Mental Disorders, Middle Aged, Neurodegenerative Diseases, Neuroimaging, Polymorphism, Genetic, Residence Characteristics, Uncoupling Protein 2, White Matter