Inherited Mendelian defects of nuclear-mitochondrial communication affecting the stability of mitochondrial DNA

Anna Limongelli, Valeria Tiranti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The presence of mtDNA abnormalities inherited as Mendelian traits indicates the existence of mutations in nuclear genes affecting the integrity of the mitochondrial genome. Two groups of nucleus-driven abnormalities have been described: qualitative alterations of mtDNA, i.e. multiple large-scale deletions of mtDNA, and quantitative decrease of the mtDNA copy number, i.e. tissue-specific depletion of mtDNA. Autosomal dominant or recessive (adPEO), progressive ophthalmoplegia and autosomal-recessive mitochondrial neurogastrointestinal encephalomyopathy (MNGIE), are three neurodegenerative disorders associated with the coexistence of wild-type mtDNA with several deletion-containing mtDNA species. Heterozygous mutations of the genes encoding the muscle-heart isoform of the adenosine diphosphate/adenosine triphosphate mitochondrial translocator (ANT1), the main subunit of polymerase gamma (POLG1), and of the putative mtDNA helicase (Twinkle) have been found in adPEO families linked to three different loci, on chromosomes 4q34-35, 10q24, and 15q25, respectively. Mutations in the gene encoding thymidine phosphorylase have been identified in several MNGIE patients. Severe, tissue-specific depletion of mtDNA is the molecular hallmark of rapidly progressive hepatopathies or myopathies of infancy and childhood. Two genes, deoxyguanosine kinase and thymidine kinase type 2, both involved in the mitochondrion-specific salvage pathways of deoxynucleotide pools, have been associated with depletion syndromes in selected families.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-46
Number of pages8
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2002


  • Inherited Mendelian defects
  • Mitochondrial DNA
  • Nuclear-mitochondrial communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics


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