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Hum Mol Genet. 1995 Nov;4(11):2017-23.

Nuclear DNA origin of cytochrome c oxidase deficiency in Leigh's syndrome: genetic evidence based on patient's-derived rho degrees transformants.

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  • 1Division of Biochemistry and Genetics, Istituto Nazionale Neurologico Carlo Besta, Milano, Italy.


Defects of the respiratory chain carrying out oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) are the biochemical hallmark of human mitochondrial disorders. Faulty OXPHOS can be due to mutations in either nuclear or mitochondrial genes, that are involved in the synthesis of individual respiratory subunits or in their post-translational control. The most common mitochondrial disorder of infancy and childhood is Leigh's syndrome, a severe encephalopathy, often associated with a defect of cytochrome c oxidase (COX). In order to demonstrate which genome is primarily involved in COX-deficient (COX(-))-Leigh's syndrome, we generated two lines of transmitochondrial cybrids. The first was obtained by fusing nuclear DNA-less cytoplasts derived from normal fibroblasts, with mitochondrial DNA-less (rho degree) transformant fibroblasts derived from a patient with COX(-))-Leigh's syndrome. The second cybrid line was obtained by fusing rho degree cells derived from 143B.TK- human osteosarcoma cells, with cytoplasts derived from the same patient. The first cybrid line showed a specific and severe COX(-) phenotype, while in the second all the respiratory chain complexes, including COX, were normal. These results indicate that the COX defect in our patient is due to a mutation of a nuclear gene. The use of cybrids obtained from 'customized', patient-derived rho degree cells can have wide applications in the identification of respiratory chain defects originated by nuclear DNA-encoded mutations, and in the study of nuclear DNA-mitochondrial DNA interactions.

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