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Clin Chim Acta. 2005 Apr;354(1-2):1-20. Epub 2005 Jan 27.

Mitochondrial DNA analysis in clinical laboratory diagnostics.

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Institute for Molecular and Human Genetics, Georgetown University Medical Center, 3800 Reservoir Road, NW, M4000, Washington, DC 20007, USA.


Mitochondrial disorders are increasingly being diagnosed, especially among patients with multiple, seemingly unrelated, neuromuscular and multi-sytem disorders. The genetics are complex, in particular as the primary mutation can be either on the nuclear or the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). mtDNA mutations are often maternally inherited, but can be sporadic or secondary to autosomally inherited mutations in nuclear genes that regulate mtDNA biosynthesis. mtDNA mutations demonstrate extreme variable expressivity in terms of clinical manifestations and severity, even within a family. Disease is often episodic. Several well-defined clinical syndromes associated with specific mutations are described, yet the genotype-phenotype correlation is fair at best and most patients do not fit within any defined syndrome and have rare or novel mutations. In most patients, mutant and wild-type mtDNA coexist ("heteroplasmy"), although homoplasmic mtDNA mutations also are known. "Standard" mtDNA clinical diagnostics usually consists of a PCR-based assay to detect a small number of relatively common point mutations and Southern blotting (or PCR) for large (>500 bp) rearrangements. In selected cases testing negative, additional analyses can include real-time PCR for mtDNA depletion, and full mtDNA genome screening for the detection of rare and novel point mutations by a variety of methods. Prenatal diagnosis is problematic in most cases.

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