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Mol Vis. 2012;18:2687-99. Epub 2012 Nov 12.

Clinical characterization and mitochondrial DNA sequence variations in Leber hereditary optic neuropathy.

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Laboratory for Molecular Reproduction and Genetics, Department of Anatomy, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Ansari Nagar, New Delhi, India.



Leber hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON), a maternally inherited disorder, results from point mutations in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). MtDNA is highly polymorphic in nature with very high mutation rate, 10-17 fold higher as compared to nuclear genome. Identification of new mtDNA sequence variations is necessary to establish a clean link with human disease. Thus this study was aimed to assess or evaluate LHON patients for novel mtDNA sequence variations.


Twenty LHON patients were selected from the neuro-ophthalmology clinic of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India. DNA was isolated from whole blood samples. The entire coding region of the mitochondrial genome was amplified by PCR in 20 patients and 20 controls. For structural analysis (molecular modeling and simulation) the MODELER 9.2 program in Discovery Studio (DS 2.0) was used.


MtDNA sequencing revealed a total of 47 nucleotide variations in the 20 LHON patients and 29 variations in 20 controls. Of 47 changes in patients 21.2% (10/47) were nonsynonymous and the remaining 78.72% (37/47) were synonymous. Five nonsynonymous changes, including primary LHON mutations (NADH dehydrogenase subunit 1 [ND1]:p.A52T, NADH dehydrogenase subunit 6 [ND6]:p.M64V, adenosine triphosphate [ATP] synthase subunit a (F-ATPase protein 6) [ATPase6]:p.M181T, NADH dehydrogenase subunit 4 [ND4]:p.R340H, and cytochrome B [CYB]:p.F181L), were found to be pathogenic. A greater number of changes were present in complex I (53.19%; 25/47), followed by complex III (19.14%; 9/47), then complex IV (19.14%; 9/47), then complex V (8.5%; 4/47). Nonsynonymous variations may impair respiratory chain and oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) pathways, which results in low ATP production and elevated reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels. Oxidative stress is the underlying etiology in various diseases and also plays a crucial role in LHON.


This study describes the role of mtDNA sequence variations in LHON patients. Primary LHON mutations of mtDNA are main variants leading to LHON, but mutations in other mitochondrial genes may also play an important role in pathogenesis of LHON as indicated in the present study. Certain alleles in certain haplogroups have protective or deleterious roles and hence there is a need to analyze a large number of cases for correlating phenotype and disease severity with mutation and mtDNA haplogroups.

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