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Nucleic Acids Res. 2008 May;36(9):3065-74. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkn147. Epub 2008 Apr 8.

Overexpression of human mitochondrial valyl tRNA synthetase can partially restore levels of cognate mt-tRNAVal carrying the pathogenic C25U mutation.

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Mitochondrial Research Group, Institute of Neuroscience, Medical School, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Framlington Place, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 4HH, UK.


Phenotypic diversity associated with pathogenic mutations of the human mitochondrial genome (mtDNA) has often been explained by unequal segregation of the mutated and wild-type genomes (heteroplasmy). However, this simple hypothesis cannot explain the tissue specificity of disorders caused by homoplasmic mtDNA mutations. We have previously associated a homoplasmic point mutation (1624C>T) in MTTV with a profound metabolic disorder that resulted in the neonatal deaths of numerous siblings. Affected tissues harboured a marked biochemical defect in components of the mitochondrial respiratory chain, presumably due to the extremely low (<1%) steady-state levels of mt-tRNA(Val). In primary myoblasts and transmitochondrial cybrids established from the proband (index case) and offspring, the marked respiratory deficiency was lost and steady-state levels of the mutated mt-tRNA(Val) were greater than in the biopsy material, but were still an order of magnitude lower than in control myoblasts. We present evidence that the generalized decrease in steady-state mt-tRNA(Val) observed in the homoplasmic 1624C>T-cell lines is caused by a rapid degradation of the deacylated form of the abnormal mt-tRNA(Val). By both establishing the identity of the human mitochondrial valyl-tRNA synthetase then inducing its overexpression in transmitochondrial cell lines, we have been able to partially restore steady-state levels of the mutated mt-tRNA(Val), consistent with an increased stability of the charged mt-tRNA. These data indicate that variations in the levels of VARS2L between tissue types and patients could underlie the difference in clinical presentation between individuals homoplasmic for the 1624C>T mutation.

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