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Hum Reprod. 2000 Jul;15 Suppl 2:246-55.

Towards reliable prenatal diagnosis of mtDNA point mutations: studies of nt8993 mutations in oocytes, fetal tissues, children and adults.

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The Murdoch Institute, Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.


Prenatal diagnosis of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutations is technically possible, but has only rarely been attempted. This is largely because of uncertainty about the effects of mtDNA heteroplasmy, the mtDNA bottleneck, random segregation or selection of mtDNA species, and difficulty in correlating a particular mtDNA mutant load with clinical outcome. We have investigated the feasibility of prenatal diagnosis for two common mtDNA mutations at nucleotide (nt)8993 by determining mtDNA mutant loads in human oocytes and by reviewing data on 56 pedigrees with these mutations, and by reviewing six studies on mtDNA mutations in human fetuses. Data from heteroplasmic human and mouse oocytes demonstrate that the bottleneck occurs in early oogenesis. Analysis of mutant loads of the nt8993 mutations in fetal and adult tissues confirms that there is no substantial tissue variation, implying that the mutant load in a prenatal sample will represent the mutant load in other fetal tissues. The two nucleotide 8993 mutations each show a strong correlation between mutant load and symptom severity and between maternal blood mutant load and risk of a severe outcome. We generated empirical data for calculating recurrence risk and predicting the clinical outcome of a given mutant load. These predictive data can be used (cautiously) for genetic counselling and prenatal diagnosis of nucleotide 8993 mutations.

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