Twin Research and Human Genetics

Articles

Approaches to Finding the Molecular Basis of Mitochondrial Oxidative Phosphorylation Disorders

Denise M. Kirbya1 and David R. Thorburna2 c1

a1 Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and Genetic Health Services Victoria, Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, Australia.

a2 Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and Genetic Health Services Victoria, Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, Australia; Department of Paediatrics, University of Melbourne, Australia. david.thorburn@mcri.edu.au

Abstract

Inherited disorders of mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation are the most common group of inborn errors of metabolism and cause a wide range of clinical presentations. Mitochondrial DNA encodes 13 protein subunits required for oxidative phosphorylation plus 22 transfer RNAs and two ribosomal RNAs, and mutations in most of these genes cause human disease. Nuclear genes encode most of the protein subunits and all other proteins required for mitochondrial biogenesis and mitochondrial DNA replication and expression. Mutations in 64 nuclear genes and 34 mitochondrial genes are now known to cause mitochondrial disease and many novel mitochondrial disease genes await discovery. The genetic complexity of oxidative phosphorylation means that maternal, autosomal recessive, autosomal dominant and X-linked modes of inheritance can occur, along with de novo mutations. This complexity presents a challenge in planning efficient molecular genetic diagnosis of patients with suspected mitochondrial disease. In some situations, clinical phenotype can be strongly predictive of the underlying genotype. However, more often this is not the case and it is usually helpful, particularly with pediatric patients, to determine whether the activity of one or more of the individual oxidative phosphorylation enzymes is deficient before proceeding with mutation analysis. In this review we will summarize the genetic bases of mitochondrial disease and discuss some approaches to integrate information from clinical presentation, laboratory findings, family history, and imaging to guide molecular investigation.

(Received April 08 2008)

(Accepted May 07 2008)

Keywords

  • mitochondrial disease;
  • genes;
  • respiratory chain;
  • OXPHOS

Correspondence:

c1 Address for correspondence: David R Thorburn, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and Genetic Health Services Victoria, Royal Children's Hospital, Parkville, Melbourne, Victoria 3052, Australia.

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