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Nat Genet. 2001 Nov;29(3):342-4.

Mutant mitochondrial thymidine kinase in mitochondrial DNA depletion myopathy.

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The Metabolic Disease Unit, Shaare-Zedek Medical Center, Faculty of Medicine, the Hebrew University, Jerusalem 91031, Israel.


The mitochondrial deoxyribonucleotide (dNTP) pool is separated from the cytosolic pool because the mitochondria inner membrane is impermeable to charged molecules. The mitochondrial pool is maintained by either import of cytosolic dNTPs through dedicated transporters or by salvaging deoxynucleosides within the mitochondria; apparently, enzymes of the de novo dNTP synthesis pathway are not present in the mitochondria. In non-replicating cells, where cytosolic dNTP synthesis is down-regulated, mtDNA synthesis depends solely on the mitochondrial salvage pathway enzymes, the deoxyribonucleosides kinases. Two of the four human deoxyribonucleoside kinases, deoxyguanosine kinase (dGK) and thymidine kinase-2 (TK2), are expressed in mitochondria. Human dGK efficiently phosphorylates deoxyguanosine and deoxyadenosine, whereas TK2 phosphorylates deoxythymidine, deoxycytidine and deoxyuridine. Here we identify two mutations in TK2, histidine 90 to asparagine and isoleucine 181 to asparagine, in four individuals who developed devastating myopathy and depletion of muscular mitochondrial DNA in infancy. In these individuals, the activity of TK2 in muscle mitochondria is reduced to 14-45% of the mean value in healthy control individuals. Mutations in TK2 represent a new etiology for mitochondrial DNA depletion, underscoring the importance of the mitochondrial dNTP pool in the pathogenesis of mitochondrial depletion.

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