Identification of ataxia-associated mtDNA mutations (m.4052T>C and m.9035T>C) and evaluation of their pathogenicity in transmitochondrial cybrids
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The potential pathogenicity of two homoplasmic mtDNA point mutations, 9035T>C and 4452T>C, found in a family afflicted with maternally transmitted cognitive developmental delay, learning disability, and progressive ataxia was evaluated using transmitochondrial cybrids. We confirmed that the 4452T>C transition in tRNA(Met) represented a polymorphism; however, 9035T>C conversion in the ATP6 gene was responsible for a defective F(0)-ATPase. Accordingly, mutant cybrids had a reduced oligomycin-sensitive ATP hydrolyzing activity. They had less than half of the steady-state content of ATP and nearly an 8-fold higher basal level of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Mutant cybrids were unable to cope with additional insults, i.e., glucose deprivation or tertiary-butyl hydroperoxide, and they succumbed to either apoptotic or necrotic cell death. Both of these outcomes were prevented by the antioxidants CoQ(10) and vitamin E, suggesting that the abnormally high levels of ROS were the triggers of cell death. In conclusion, the principal metabolic defects, i.e., energy deficiency and ROS burden, resulted from the 9035T>C mutation and could be responsible for the development of clinical symptoms in this family. Furthermore, antioxidant therapy might prove helpful in the management of this disease.