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Am J Hum Genet. 1991 Mar;48(3):502-10.

Deficiency of complex III of the mitochondrial respiratory chain in a patient with facioscapulohumeral disease.

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Department of Pediatrics, McGill University-Montreal Children's Hospital Research Institute, Quebec, Canada.


Facioscapulohumeral disease (FSHD), an inherited neuromuscular disorder, is characterized by progressive wasting of specific muscle groups, particularly the proximal musculature of the upper limbs; the primary defect in this disorder is unknown. We studied a patient with FSHD to determine whether the mitochondrial respiratory chain was functionally abnormal. Muscle biopsy revealed fiber atrophy with patchy staining for oxidative enzymes. Electron microscopy of a liver section showed many enlarged mitochondria with paracrystalline inclusions. Decreased oxidation of the respiratory substrates-alanine and succinate-in skin fibroblasts suggested a deficiency of complex III of the electron-transport chain; cytochrome c oxidase activity (complex IV) was in the normal range. Biochemical analysis of liver supported the fibroblast data, since succinate oxidase activity (electron-transport activity through complexes II-IV) was reduced, whereas complex IV activity was normal. Furthermore, analysis of the cytochrome spectrum in liver revealed typical peaks for cytochromes cc1 and aa3, whereas cytochrome b (a component of complex III) was undetectable. Southern blot analysis of fibroblast mtDNA revealed no major deletions or rearrangements. Our study provides the first documentation of a specific enzyme-complex deficiency associated with FSHD.

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