University of Oulu

Genetic causes of mitochondrial complex I deficiency in children

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Author: Hinttala, Reetta1,2,3,4,5
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Neurology
2University of Oulu, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Paediatrics
3University of Oulu, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Medical Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
4Oulu University Hospital, Clinical Research Center
5Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Department of Pediatrics, Nijmegen Centre for Mitochondrial Disorders
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1 MB)
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Language: English
Published: 2006
Publish Date: 2006-12-22
Thesis type: Doctoral Dissertation
Defence Note: Academic dissertation to be presented, with the assent of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Oulu, for public defence in Auditorium 101 A of the Faculty of Medicine (Aapistie 5 A), on January 5th, 2007, at 12 noon
Reviewer: Professor Brian H. Robinson
Doctor Robert W. Taylor


The mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation system is composed of five multisubunit enzyme complexes. Complex I is the first and largest of these, containing 46 subunits, seven encoded by mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and the rest by nuclear DNA. Isolated complex I deficiency is a major cause of metabolic errors in infancy and childhood, presenting as encephalomyopathies or multisystem disorders. Due to the bigenomic origin of complex I, the genetic causes of these defects can be either mitochondrial or nuclear.

The object of the present work was to identify the underlying genetic cause in cases of children with complex I deficiency and to obtain more information on the structurally and functionally important sites of complex I subunits. The complete coding region of mtDNA was analysed by conformation-sensitive gel electrophoresis and subsequent sequencing. In addition, nine nuclear genes encoding conserved subunits of complex I were sequenced. The structural and functional consequences of the new sequence variants were further elucidated using mutagenesis of homologous residue in bacterial NDH-1 or by studying complex I assembly and expression in patient cell lines.

Analysis of the mtDNA coding region in 50 children revealed four definitely pathogenic mutations, 3460G>A, 10191T>C, 11778G>A and 14487T>C, in seven patients. In addition, two novel mtDNA base pair substitutions were identified, 3866T>C in a patient with muscle weakness and short stature and 4681T>C in a patient with Leigh syndrome. The latter mutation causes a Leu71Pro amino acid exchange in the ND2 subunit. Cybrid clones harbouring this mutation retained the complex I defect, and reduced amounts of fully assembled complex I were detected in patient cell lines. The 3866T>C mutation leads to a Ile187Thr amino acid substitution in the ND1 subunit, and functional studies of the homologous amino acid substitution in E. coli showed that this had an effect on the assembly or stability of the NDH-1 holoenzyme. Sequencing of the nine nuclear-encoded complex I genes revealed only one novel base pair substitution with pathogenic potential. Further studies are needed, however, to establish the role of the Arg18Cys substitution in the mitochondrial leading peptide of the TYKY subunit.

The above findings emphasize the contribution of mtDNA mutations to the aetiology of pediatric patients with complex I deficiency. Furthermore, two LHON primary mutations were identified in the present cohort of patients, although the clinical signs differed considerably from the classical symptoms of LHON. This suggests that the phenotype caused by primary LHON mutations is more variable than has so far been thought.

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Series: Acta Universitatis Ouluensis. D, Medica
ISSN-E: 1796-2234
ISBN: 951-42-8288-4
ISBN Print: 951-42-8287-6
Issue: 904
Copyright information: © University of Oulu, 2006. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.