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Am J Hum Genet. 1992 May;50(5):934-49.

The mitochondrial tRNA(Leu(UUR)) mutation in mitochondrial encephalomyopathy, lactic acidosis, and strokelike episodes (MELAS): genetic, biochemical, and morphological correlations in skeletal muscle.

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H. Houston Merritt Clinical Research Center for Muscular Dystrophy and Related Disorders, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY 10032.


Mitochondrial encephalomyopathy, lactic acidosis, and strokelike episodes (MELAS) has recently been associated with an A----G transition at position 3243 within the mitochondrial tRNA(Leu(UUR)) gene. Besides altering the tRNA(Leu(UUR)) sequence, this point mutation lies within a DNA segment responsible for transcription termination of the rRNA genes. We have studied the distribution and expression of mutant mtDNAs in muscle biopsies from MELAS patients. Histochemical, immunohistochemical, and single-fiber PCR analysis showed that ragged-red fibers (RRF) are associated both with high levels of mutant mitochondrial genomes (greater than 85% mutant mtDNA) and with a partial cytochrome c oxidase deficiency. By quantitative in situ hybridization, the steady-state ratios of mRNAs:rRNAs were found to be similar to controls in six of eight patients studied. In two other patients the relative levels of heavy-strand mRNAs were slightly increased, but a patient with myoclonic epilepsy and RRF also exhibited a similar increase. These results directly correlate the A----G transition at mtDNA position 3243 with muscle mitochondrial proliferation, partial respiratory-chain impairment, decreased mitochondrially synthesized protein content, and no specific alterations in mitochondrial ratios of mRNAs:rRNAs.

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