The aim of this work was to investigate in muscle the role of apoptosis and of oxidative stress in mitochondrial disorders with dysfunction of respiratory chain. In patients with cytochrome c oxidase deficiency (COX) we found a variable number of myofibers with apoptotic nuclei that matched with the level of enzymatic reduction and roughly correlated with muscle weakness. In parallel, a positive immunostaining for apoptosis-related proteins and Mn and Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD) were mostly localized in COX-negative fibers. Moreover, glutathione peroxidase activity was increased in muscles with high number of SOD-positive myofibers and prominent apoptotic features. No signs of apoptosis were observed in patients with deficiencies of complexes I and II and without muscle weakness. These data suggest that apoptosis along with increased ROS production, revealed by anti-oxidant enzymes overexpression, may play an important role in the pathophysiology of mitochondrial diseases associated with COX deficiency.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.