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J Neurol Sci. 1992 Sep;111(2):222-6.

Use of single strand conformation polymorphism analysis to detect point mutations in human mitochondrial DNA.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Columbia University, New York, NY.


Myoclonus epilepsy with ragged-red fibers (MERRF) has been shown to be associated with a specific point mutation at the nucleotide 8344 in the tRNA(Lys) gene of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). We screened 6 patients with clinically diagnosed MERRF and 1 patient with ocular myopathy for point mutations in the tRNA(Lys) gene, using single strand conformation polymorphism (SSCP) analysis, which can detect even a 1-basepair difference between 2 DNA sequences. Using SSCP and consequent DNA sequencing, we identified the known MERRF mutation in 4 out of 6 MERRF patients, as well as in 1 patient with a new clinical phenotype associated with this mutation: progressive external ophthalmoplegia, muscle weakness and a lipoma, but no myoclonus or epilepsy. Two of the patients with clinical MERRF had neither the MERRF-mutation nor any other mutations in the tRNA(Lys) gene. Using SSCP analysis, we also detected a new polymorphism in 1 patient. Thus, SSCP analysis can be applied to search effectively and rapidly for point mutations or polymorphisms in mitochondrial DNA.

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