Renal disease and mitochondrial genetics

J Nephrol. 2003 Mar-Apr;16(2):286-92.


Respiratory chain (RC) deficiencies have long been regarded as neuromuscular diseases mainly originating from mutations in the mitochondrial DNA. Oxidative phosphorylation, i.e. adenosine triphosphate (ATP) synthesis-coupled electron transfer from substrate to oxygen through the RC, does not occur only in the neuromuscular system. Therefore, a RC deficiency can theoretically give rise to any symptom, in any organ or tissue, at any age and with any mode of inheritance, owing to the dual genetic origin of RC enzymes (nuclear DNA and mitochondrial DNA). Mitochondrial diseases can give rise to various syndromes or association, namely, neurologic and neuromuscular diseases, cardiac, renal, hepatic, hematological and endocrin or dermatological presentations. The most frequent renal symptom is proximal tubular dysfunction with a more or less complete de Toni-Debre-Fanconi Syndrome. A few patients have been reported with tubular acidosis, Bartter Syndrome, chronic tubulointerstitial nephritis or nephrotic syndrome. The diagnosis of a RC deficiency is difficult when only renal symptoms are present, but should be easier when another, seemingly unrelated symptom is observed. Metabolic screening for abnormal oxidoreduction status in plasma, including lactate/pyruvate and ketone body molar ratios, can help to identify patients for further investigations. These include the measurement of oxygen consumption by mitochondria and the assessment of mitochondrial respiratory enzyme activities by spectrophotometric studies. Any mode of inheritance can be observed: sporadic, autosomal dominant or recessive, or maternal inheritance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / analysis
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Humans
  • Kidney Diseases / genetics*
  • Kidney Diseases / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Mitochondria / genetics*
  • Mitochondrial Diseases / genetics*
  • Mitochondrial Diseases / physiopathology
  • Mutation
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors


  • DNA, Mitochondrial