Publications by authors named "John W Yarham"

15 Publications

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Biallelic Mutations in TMEM126B Cause Severe Complex I Deficiency with a Variable Clinical Phenotype.

Am J Hum Genet 2016 Jul 30;99(1):217-27. Epub 2016 Jun 30.

Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Research, Institute of Neuroscience, Newcastle University Medical School, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4HH, UK. Electronic address:

Complex I deficiency is the most common biochemical phenotype observed in individuals with mitochondrial disease. With 44 structural subunits and over 10 assembly factors, it is unsurprising that complex I deficiency is associated with clinical and genetic heterogeneity. Massively parallel sequencing (MPS) technologies including custom, targeted gene panels or unbiased whole-exome sequencing (WES) are hugely powerful in identifying the underlying genetic defect in a clinical diagnostic setting, yet many individuals remain without a genetic diagnosis. These individuals might harbor mutations in poorly understood or uncharacterized genes, and their diagnosis relies upon characterization of these orphan genes. Complexome profiling recently identified TMEM126B as a component of the mitochondrial complex I assembly complex alongside proteins ACAD9, ECSIT, NDUFAF1, and TIMMDC1. Here, we describe the clinical, biochemical, and molecular findings in six cases of mitochondrial disease from four unrelated families affected by biallelic (c.635G>T [p.Gly212Val] and/or c.401delA [p.Asn134Ilefs(∗)2]) TMEM126B variants. We provide functional evidence to support the pathogenicity of these TMEM126B variants, including evidence of founder effects for both variants, and establish defects within this gene as a cause of complex I deficiency in association with either pure myopathy in adulthood or, in one individual, a severe multisystem presentation (chronic renal failure and cardiomyopathy) in infancy. Functional experimentation including viral rescue and complexome profiling of subject cell lines has confirmed TMEM126B as the tenth complex I assembly factor associated with human disease and validates the importance of both genome-wide sequencing and proteomic approaches in characterizing disease-associated genes whose physiological roles have been previously undetermined.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajhg.2016.05.021DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5005451PMC
July 2016

LRPPRC mutations cause early-onset multisystem mitochondrial disease outside of the French-Canadian population.

Brain 2015 Dec 27;138(Pt 12):3503-19. Epub 2015 Oct 27.

1 Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Research, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 4HH, UK

Mitochondrial Complex IV [cytochrome c oxidase (COX)] deficiency is one of the most common respiratory chain defects in humans. The clinical phenotypes associated with COX deficiency include liver disease, cardiomyopathy and Leigh syndrome, a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by bilateral high signal lesions in the brainstem and basal ganglia. COX deficiency can result from mutations affecting many different mitochondrial proteins. The French-Canadian variant of COX-deficient Leigh syndrome is unique to the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region of Québec and is caused by a founder mutation in the LRPPRC gene. This encodes the leucine-rich pentatricopeptide repeat domain protein (LRPPRC), which is involved in post-transcriptional regulation of mitochondrial gene expression. Here, we present the clinical and molecular characterization of novel, recessive LRPPRC gene mutations, identified using whole exome and candidate gene sequencing. The 10 patients come from seven unrelated families of UK-Caucasian, UK-Pakistani, UK-Indian, Turkish and Iraqi origin. They resemble the French-Canadian Leigh syndrome patients in having intermittent severe lactic acidosis and early-onset neurodevelopmental problems with episodes of deterioration. In addition, many of our patients have had neonatal cardiomyopathy or congenital malformations, most commonly affecting the heart and the brain. All patients who were tested had isolated COX deficiency in skeletal muscle. Functional characterization of patients' fibroblasts and skeletal muscle homogenates showed decreased levels of mutant LRPPRC protein and impaired Complex IV enzyme activity, associated with abnormal COX assembly and reduced steady-state levels of numerous oxidative phosphorylation subunits. We also identified a Complex I assembly defect in skeletal muscle, indicating different roles for LRPPRC in post-transcriptional regulation of mitochondrial mRNAs between tissues. Patient fibroblasts showed decreased steady-state levels of mitochondrial mRNAs, although the length of poly(A) tails of mitochondrial transcripts were unaffected. Our study identifies LRPPRC as an important disease-causing gene in an early-onset, multisystem and neurological mitochondrial disease, which should be considered as a cause of COX deficiency even in patients originating outside of the French-Canadian population.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/brain/awv291DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4655343PMC
December 2015

Use of whole-exome sequencing to determine the genetic basis of multiple mitochondrial respiratory chain complex deficiencies.

JAMA 2014 Jul;312(1):68-77

Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Research, Institute of Genetic Medicine, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

Importance: Mitochondrial disorders have emerged as a common cause of inherited disease, but their diagnosis remains challenging. Multiple respiratory chain complex defects are particularly difficult to diagnose at the molecular level because of the massive number of nuclear genes potentially involved in intramitochondrial protein synthesis, with many not yet linked to human disease.

Objective: To determine the molecular basis of multiple respiratory chain complex deficiencies.

Design, Setting, And Participants: We studied 53 patients referred to 2 national centers in the United Kingdom and Germany between 2005 and 2012. All had biochemical evidence of multiple respiratory chain complex defects but no primary pathogenic mitochondrial DNA mutation. Whole-exome sequencing was performed using 62-Mb exome enrichment, followed by variant prioritization using bioinformatic prediction tools, variant validation by Sanger sequencing, and segregation of the variant with the disease phenotype in the family.

Results: Presumptive causal variants were identified in 28 patients (53%; 95% CI, 39%-67%) and possible causal variants were identified in 4 (8%; 95% CI, 2%-18%). Together these accounted for 32 patients (60% 95% CI, 46%-74%) and involved 18 different genes. These included recurrent mutations in RMND1, AARS2, and MTO1, each on a haplotype background consistent with a shared founder allele, and potential novel mutations in 4 possible mitochondrial disease genes (VARS2, GARS, FLAD1, and PTCD1). Distinguishing clinical features included deafness and renal involvement associated with RMND1 and cardiomyopathy with AARS2 and MTO1. However, atypical clinical features were present in some patients, including normal liver function and Leigh syndrome (subacute necrotizing encephalomyelopathy) seen in association with TRMU mutations and no cardiomyopathy with founder SCO2 mutations. It was not possible to confidently identify the underlying genetic basis in 21 patients (40%; 95% CI, 26%-54%).

Conclusions And Relevance: Exome sequencing enhances the ability to identify potential nuclear gene mutations in patients with biochemically defined defects affecting multiple mitochondrial respiratory chain complexes. Additional study is required in independent patient populations to determine the utility of this approach in comparison with traditional diagnostic methods.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jama.2014.7184DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6558267PMC
July 2014

Defective i6A37 modification of mitochondrial and cytosolic tRNAs results from pathogenic mutations in TRIT1 and its substrate tRNA.

PLoS Genet 2014 Jun 5;10(6):e1004424. Epub 2014 Jun 5.

Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Research, Institute for Ageing and Health, The Medical School, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom.

Identifying the genetic basis for mitochondrial diseases is technically challenging given the size of the mitochondrial proteome and the heterogeneity of disease presentations. Using next-generation exome sequencing, we identified in a patient with severe combined mitochondrial respiratory chain defects and corresponding perturbation in mitochondrial protein synthesis, a homozygous p.Arg323Gln mutation in TRIT1. This gene encodes human tRNA isopentenyltransferase, which is responsible for i6A37 modification of the anticodon loops of a small subset of cytosolic and mitochondrial tRNAs. Deficiency of i6A37 was previously shown in yeast to decrease translational efficiency and fidelity in a codon-specific manner. Modelling of the p.Arg323Gln mutation on the co-crystal structure of the homologous yeast isopentenyltransferase bound to a substrate tRNA, indicates that it is one of a series of adjacent basic side chains that interact with the tRNA backbone of the anticodon stem, somewhat removed from the catalytic center. We show that patient cells bearing the p.Arg323Gln TRIT1 mutation are severely deficient in i6A37 in both cytosolic and mitochondrial tRNAs. Complete complementation of the i6A37 deficiency of both cytosolic and mitochondrial tRNAs was achieved by transduction of patient fibroblasts with wild-type TRIT1. Moreover, we show that a previously-reported pathogenic m.7480A>G mt-tRNASer(UCN) mutation in the anticodon loop sequence A36A37A38 recognised by TRIT1 causes a loss of i6A37 modification. These data demonstrate that deficiencies of i6A37 tRNA modification should be considered a potential mechanism of human disease caused by both nuclear gene and mitochondrial DNA mutations while providing insight into the structure and function of TRIT1 in the modification of cytosolic and mitochondrial tRNAs.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1004424DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4046958PMC
June 2014

Mutations in FBXL4 cause mitochondrial encephalopathy and a disorder of mitochondrial DNA maintenance.

Am J Hum Genet 2013 Sep 29;93(3):471-81. Epub 2013 Aug 29.

Department of Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX 77030, USA.

Nuclear genetic disorders causing mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) depletion are clinically and genetically heterogeneous, and the molecular etiology remains undiagnosed in the majority of cases. Through whole-exome sequencing, we identified recessive nonsense and splicing mutations in FBXL4 segregating in three unrelated consanguineous kindreds in which affected children present with a fatal encephalopathy, lactic acidosis, and severe mtDNA depletion in muscle. We show that FBXL4 is an F-box protein that colocalizes with mitochondria and that loss-of-function and splice mutations in this protein result in a severe respiratory chain deficiency, loss of mitochondrial membrane potential, and a disturbance of the dynamic mitochondrial network and nucleoid distribution in fibroblasts from affected individuals. Expression of the wild-type FBXL4 transcript in cell lines from two subjects fully rescued the levels of mtDNA copy number, leading to a correction of the mitochondrial biochemical deficit. Together our data demonstrate that mutations in FBXL4 are disease causing and establish FBXL4 as a mitochondrial protein with a possible role in maintaining mtDNA integrity and stability.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajhg.2013.07.017DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3769921PMC
September 2013

MTO1 mutations are associated with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and lactic acidosis and cause respiratory chain deficiency in humans and yeast.

Hum Mutat 2013 Nov 17;34(11):1501-9. Epub 2013 Sep 17.

Department of Life Sciences, University of Parma, Parma, Italy.

We report three families presenting with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, lactic acidosis, and multiple defects of mitochondrial respiratory chain (MRC) activities. By direct sequencing of the candidate gene MTO1, encoding the mitochondrial-tRNA modifier 1, or whole exome sequencing analysis, we identified novel missense mutations. All MTO1 mutations were predicted to be deleterious on MTO1 function. Their pathogenic role was experimentally validated in a recombinant yeast model, by assessing oxidative growth, respiratory activity, mitochondrial protein synthesis, and complex IV activity. In one case, we also demonstrated that expression of wt MTO1 could rescue the respiratory defect in mutant fibroblasts. The severity of the yeast respiratory phenotypes partly correlated with the different clinical presentations observed in MTO1 mutant patients, although the clinical outcome was highly variable in patients with the same mutation and seemed also to depend on timely start of pharmacological treatment, centered on the control of lactic acidosis by dichloroacetate. Our results indicate that MTO1 mutations are commonly associated with a presentation of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, lactic acidosis, and MRC deficiency, and that ad hoc recombinant yeast models represent a useful system to test the pathogenic potential of uncommon variants, and provide insight into their effects on the expression of a biochemical phenotype.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/humu.22393DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4028987PMC
November 2013

Pathogenic mitochondrial tRNA point mutations: nine novel mutations affirm their importance as a cause of mitochondrial disease.

Hum Mutat 2013 Sep;34(9):1260-8

Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Research, Institute for Ageing and Health, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.

Mutations in the mitochondrial genome, and in particular the mt-tRNAs, are an important cause of human disease. Accurate classification of the pathogenicity of novel variants is vital to allow accurate genetic counseling for patients and their families. The use of weighted criteria based on functional studies-outlined in a validated pathogenicity scoring system--is therefore invaluable in determining whether novel or rare mt-tRNA variants are pathogenic. Here, we describe the identification of nine novel mt--tRNA variants in nine families, in which the probands presented with a diverse range of clinical phenotypes including mitochondrial encephalomyopathy, lactic acidosis, and stroke-like episodes, isolated progressive external ophthalmoplegia, epilepsy, deafness and diabetes. Each of the variants identified (m.4289T>C, MT-TI; m.5541C>T, MT-TW; m.5690A>G, MT-TN; m.7451A>T, MT-TS1; m.7554G>A, MT-TD; m.8304G>A, MT-TK; m.12206C>T, MT-TH; m.12317T>C, MT-TL2; m.16023G>A, MT-TP) was present in a different tRNA, with evidence in support of pathogenicity, and where possible, details of mutation transmission documented. Through the application of the pathogenicity scoring system, we have classified six of these variants as "definitely pathogenic" mutations (m.5541C>T, m.5690A>G, m.7451A>T, m.12206C>T, m.12317T>C, and m.16023G>A), whereas the remaining three currently lack sufficient evidence and are therefore classed as 'possibly pathogenic' (m.4289T>C, m.7554G>A, and m.8304G>A).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/humu.22358DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3884772PMC
September 2013

Inosine triphosphate pyrophosphohydrolase (ITPA) polymorphic sequence variants in adult hematological malignancy patients and possible association with mitochondrial DNA defects.

J Hematol Oncol 2013 Mar 29;6:24. Epub 2013 Mar 29.

King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Background: Inosine triphosphate pyrophosphohydrolase (ITPase) is a 'house-cleaning' enzyme that degrades non-canonical ('rogue') nucleotides. Complete deficiency is fatal in knockout mice, but a mutant polymorphism resulting in low enzyme activity with an accumulation of ITP and other non-canonical nucleotides, appears benign in humans. We hypothesised that reduced ITPase activity may cause acquired mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) defects. Furthermore, we investigated whether accumulating mtDNA defects may then be a risk factor for cell transformation, in adult haematological malignancy (AHM).

Methods: DNA was extracted from peripheral blood and bone marrow samples. Microarray-based sequencing of mtDNA was performed on 13 AHM patients confirmed as carrying the ITPA 94C>A mutation causing low ITPase activity, and 4 AHM patients with wildtype ITPA. The frequencies of ITPA 94C>A and IVS2+21A>C polymorphisms were studied from 85 available AHM patients.

Results: ITPA 94C>A was associated with a significant increase in total heteroplasmic/homoplasmic mtDNA mutations (p<0.009) compared with wildtype ITPA, following exclusion of haplogroup variants. This suggested that low ITPase activity may induce mitochondrial abnormalities. Compared to the normal population, frequencies for the 94C>A and IVS2+21A>C mutant alleles among the AHM patients were higher for myelodyplastic syndrome (MDS) - but below significance; were approximately equivalent for chronic lymphoblastic leukemia; and were lower for acute myeloid leukemia.

Conclusions: This study invokes a new paradigm for the evolution of MDS, where nucleotide imbalances produced by defects in 'house-cleaning' genes may induce mitochondrial dysfunction, compromising cell integrity. It supports recent studies which point towards an important role for ITPase in cellular surveillance of rogue nucleotides.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1756-8722-6-24DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3765497PMC
March 2013

Early-onset cataracts, spastic paraparesis, and ataxia caused by a novel mitochondrial tRNAGlu (MT-TE) gene mutation causing severe complex I deficiency: a clinical, molecular, and neuropathologic study.

J Neuropathol Exp Neurol 2013 Feb;72(2):164-75

Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Research, Institute for Ageing and Health, The Medical School, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.

Mitochondrial respiratory chain disease is associated with a spectrum of clinical presentations and considerable genetic heterogeneity. Here we report molecular genetic and neuropathologic findings from an adult with an unusual manifestation of mitochondrial DNA disease. Clinical features included early-onset cataracts, ataxia, and progressive paraparesis, with sequencing revealing the presence of a novel de novo m.14685G>A mitochondrial tRNA(Glu) (MT-TE) gene mutation. Muscle biopsy showed that 13% and 34% of muscle fibers lacked cytochrome c oxidase activity and complex I subunit expression, respectively. Biochemical studies confirmed a marked decrease in complex I activity. Neuropathologic investigation revealed a large cystic lesion affecting the left putamen, caudate nucleus, and internal capsule, with evidence of marked microvacuolation, neuron loss, perivascular lacunae, and blood vessel mineralization. The internal capsule showed focal axonal loss, whereas brainstem and spinal cord showed descending anterograde degeneration in medullary pyramids and corticospinal tracts. In agreement with muscle biopsy findings, reduced complex I immunoreactivity was detected in the remaining neuronal populations, particularly in the basal ganglia and cerebellum, correlating with the neurologic dysfunction exhibited by the patient. This study emphasizes the importance of molecular genetic and postmortem neuropathologic analyses for furthering our understanding of underlying mechanisms of mitochondrial disorders.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/NEN.0b013e31828129c5DOI Listing
February 2013

The m.3291T>C mt-tRNA(Leu(UUR)) mutation is definitely pathogenic and causes multisystem mitochondrial disease.

J Neurol Sci 2013 Feb 27;325(1-2):165-9. Epub 2012 Dec 27.

Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Research, Institute for Ageing and Health, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom.

Mitochondrial tRNA point mutations are important causes of human disease, and have been associated with a diverse range of clinical phenotypes. Definitively proving the pathogenicity of any given mt-tRNA mutation requires combined molecular, genetic and functional studies. Subsequent evaluation of the mutation using a pathogenicity scoring system is often very helpful in concluding whether or not the mutation is causing disease. Despite several independent reports linking the m.3291T>C mutation to disease in humans, albeit in association with several different phenotypes, its pathogenicity remains controversial. A lack of conclusive functional evidence and an over-emphasis on the poor evolutionary conservation of the affected nucleotide have contributed to this controversy. Here we describe an adult patient who presented with deafness and lipomas and evidence of mitochondrial abnormalities in his muscle biopsy, who harbours the m.3291T>C mutation, providing conclusive evidence of pathogenicity through analysis of mutation segregation with cytochrome c oxidase (COX) deficiency in single muscle fibres, underlining the importance of performing functional studies when assessing pathogenicity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jns.2012.12.003DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3560033PMC
February 2013

A proposed consensus panel of organisms for determining evolutionary conservation of mt-tRNA point mutations.

Mitochondrion 2012 Sep 7;12(5):533-8. Epub 2012 Jul 7.

Mitochondrial Research Group, Institute for Ageing and Health, The Medical School, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 4HH, UK.

Assigning pathogenicity to mt-tRNA variants requires multiple strands of evidence. Evolutionary conservation is often considered mandatory, but lack of a standard panel of organisms to assess conservation complicates comparison between reports and undermines the value of conservation-based evidence. We demonstrate that intra-species MTT sequence variation is sufficiently low for sequence data from a single organism to adequately represent a species. On this basis, we propose a standardised panel of organisms for conservation assessment and describe integration of this conservation panel into a pathogenicity scoring system designed to assess mt-tRNA variation associated with mitochondrial disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.mito.2012.06.009DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3510436PMC
September 2012

Toward a mtDNA locus-specific mutation database using the LOVD platform.

Hum Mutat 2012 Sep 2;33(9):1352-8. Epub 2012 Jul 2.

Mitochondrial Research Group, Institute for Ageing and Health, The Medical School, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom.

The Human Variome Project (HVP) is a global effort to collect and curate all human genetic variation affecting health. Mutations of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) are an important cause of neurogenetic disease in humans; however, identification of the pathogenic mutations responsible can be problematic. In this article, we provide explanations as to why and suggest how such difficulties might be overcome. We put forward a case in support of a new Locus Specific Mutation Database (LSDB) implemented using the Leiden Open-source Variation Database (LOVD) system that will not only list primary mutations, but also present the evidence supporting their role in disease. Critically, we feel that this new database should have the capacity to store information on the observed phenotypes alongside the genetic variation, thereby facilitating our understanding of the complex and variable presentation of mtDNA disease. LOVD supports fast queries of both seen and hidden data and allows storage of sequence variants from high-throughput sequence analysis. The LOVD platform will allow construction of a secure mtDNA database; one that can fully utilize currently available data, as well as that being generated by high-throughput sequencing, to link genotype with phenotype enhancing our understanding of mitochondrial disease, with a view to providing better prognostic information.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/humu.22118DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4394605PMC
September 2012

Mutations in the mitochondrial tRNA Ser(AGY) gene are associated with deafness, retinal degeneration, myopathy and epilepsy.

Eur J Hum Genet 2012 Aug 29;20(8):897-904. Epub 2012 Feb 29.

Mitochondrial Research Group, Institute for Ageing and Health, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.

Although over 200 pathogenic mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutations have been reported to date, determining the genetic aetiology of many cases of mitochondrial disease is still not straightforward. Here, we describe the investigations undertaken to uncover the underlying molecular defect(s) in two unrelated Caucasian patients with suspected mtDNA disease, who presented with similar symptoms of myopathy, deafness, neurodevelopmental delay, epilepsy, marked fatigue and, in one case, retinal degeneration. Histochemical and biochemical evidence of mitochondrial respiratory chain deficiency was observed in the patient muscle biopsies and both patients were discovered to harbour a novel heteroplasmic mitochondrial tRNA (mt-tRNA)(Ser(AGY)) (MTTS2) mutation (m.12264C>T and m.12261T>C, respectively). Clear segregation of the m.12261T>C mutation with the biochemical defect, as demonstrated by single-fibre radioactive RFLP, confirmed the pathogenicity of this novel variant in patient 2. However, unusually high levels of m.12264C>T mutation within both COX-positive (98.4 ± 1.5%) and COX-deficient (98.2 ± 2.1%) fibres in patient 1 necessitated further functional investigations to prove its pathogenicity. Northern blot analysis demonstrated the detrimental effect of the m.12264C>T mutation on mt-tRNA(Ser(AGY)) stability, ultimately resulting in decreased steady-state levels of fully assembled complexes I and IV, as shown by blue-native polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. Our findings expand the spectrum of pathogenic mutations associated with the MTTS2 gene and highlight MTTS2 mutations as an important cause of retinal and syndromic auditory impairment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ejhg.2012.44DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3400738PMC
August 2012

Mitochondrial tRNA mutations and disease.

Wiley Interdiscip Rev RNA 2010 Sep-Oct;1(2):304-24. Epub 2010 Jul 21.

Mitochondrial Research Group, Institute for Ageing and Health, The Medical School, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 4HH, UK.

Mitochondrial (mt-) tRNA (MTT) gene mutations are an important cause of human morbidity and are associated with a wide range of pathology, from isolated organ-specific diseases such as myopathy or hearing loss, through to multisystem disorders with encephalopathy, gastrointestinal dysmotility, and life-threatening cardiomyopathy. Our understanding of how MTT mutations cause disease remains poor and progress has been hampered by the complex interaction of genotype with phenotype that can result in patients who harbor the same mutation exhibiting starkly contrasting phenotypes, whereas other (genetically heterogeneous) patients manifest clinically identical syndromes. A further complexity is the highly polymorphic nature of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which must temper any reflex assumptions of pathogenicity for novel MTT substitutions. Nevertheless significant progress is being made and we shall review the methods employed to identify and characterize MTT mutations as pathogenic. Also important is our understanding of the molecular processes involved and we shall discuss the data available on two of the most studied MTT mutations (m.8344A > G and m.3243A > G) as well as other potential pathogenic mechanisms. Knowledge of factors influencing the inheritance of MTT mutations, and therefore the likelihood of disease transmission, is of particular importance to female patients. At present, the factors determining transmission remain elusive, but we shall examine several possible mechanisms and discuss the evidence for each. Finally, a number of different yeast and mouse models are currently used to investigate mitochondrial disease and we will assess the importance of and difficulties associated with each model as well as the future of possible therapies for patients with mitochondrial disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/wrna.27DOI Listing
March 2012

A comparative analysis approach to determining the pathogenicity of mitochondrial tRNA mutations.

Hum Mutat 2011 Nov 19;32(11):1319-25. Epub 2011 Sep 19.

Mitochondrial Research Group, Institute for Ageing and Health, The Medical School, Newcastle University, UK.

Distinguishing pathogenic from polymorphic changes poses significant problems for geneticists and despite 30 years of postgenomic experience this remains the case in mitochondrial genetics. Base substitutions in mitochondrial tRNA (mt-tRNA) genes are particularly difficult, but important, because they are common causes of pathology and associated with high rates of transmission. Providing accurate genetic advice to patients and their families is of paramount importance in disease prevention, and brings into sharp focus the factors used to distinguish pathogenic from polymorphic variants. We have reevaluated our pathogenicity scoring system for mt-tRNA mutations following a considerable increase in the number reported since the system was devised in 2004. This allowed us to address notable issues including the underestimation of "definitely pathogenic" mutations resulting from insufficient data collection. We illustrate the robustness of our revised scoring system using novel pathogenic and previously reported polymorphic changes and conclude that while clear evidence from single-fiber and/or trans-mitochondrial cybrid studies remains the gold standard for assigning pathogenicity, our scoring system is valuable for deciding which mt-tRNA mutations to investigate further using these labor-intensive techniques.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/humu.21575DOI Listing
November 2011