Gene therapy for mitochondrial disease by delivering restriction endonuclease SmaI into mitochondria

J Biomed Sci. 2002;9(6 Pt 1):534-41. doi: 10.1159/000064726.


The restriction endonuclease SmaI has been used for the diagnosis of neurogenic muscle weakness, ataxia and retinitis pigmentosa disease or Leigh's disease, caused by the Mt8993T-->G mutation which results in a Leu156Arg replacement that blocks proton translocation activity of subunit a of F(0)F(1)-ATPase. Our ultimate goal is to apply SmaI to gene therapy for this disease, because the mutant mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) coexists with the wild-type mtDNA (heteroplasmy), and because only the mutant mtDNA, but not the wild-type mtDNA, is selectively restricted by the enzyme. For this purpose, we transiently expressed the SmaI gene fused to a mitochondrial targeting sequence in cybrids carrying the mutant mtDNA. Here, we demonstrate that mitochondria targeted by the SmaI enzyme showed specific elimination of the mutant mtDNA. This elimination was followed with repopulation by the wild-type mtDNA, resulting in restoration of both the normal intracellular ATP level and normal mitochondrial membrane potential. Furthermore, in vivo electroporation of the plasmids expressing mitochondrion-targeted EcoRI induced a decrease in cytochrome c oxidase activity in hamster skeletal muscles while causing no degenerative changes in nuclei. Delivery of restriction enzymes into mitochondria is a novel strategy for gene therapy of a special form of mitochondrial diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Cell Line
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / drug effects
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / metabolism
  • Deoxyribonuclease EcoRI / administration & dosage
  • Deoxyribonuclease EcoRI / genetics
  • Deoxyribonucleases, Type II Site-Specific / administration & dosage*
  • Deoxyribonucleases, Type II Site-Specific / genetics
  • Fibroblasts
  • Genetic Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Leigh Disease / pathology
  • Mitochondrial Diseases / genetics
  • Mitochondrial Diseases / therapy*
  • Mutation
  • Plasmids / administration & dosage
  • Plasmids / genetics


  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Deoxyribonuclease EcoRI
  • CCCGGG-specific type II deoxyribonucleases
  • Deoxyribonucleases, Type II Site-Specific