Genetic features of mitochondrial respiratory chain disorders

J Am Soc Nephrol. 2003 Dec;14(12):2995-3007. doi: 10.1097/01.asn.0000095481.24091.c9.


Oxidative phosphorylation, i.e., ATP synthesis by the oxygen-consuming respiratory chain (RC), supplies most organs and tissues with a readily usable energy source, being functional before birth. Consequently, RC deficiencies can theoretically give rise to any symptom, in any organ or tissue, at any age and with any mode of inheritance, because of the twofold genetic origin of RC components (nuclear DNA and mitochondrial DNA). It was long wrongly considered that RC disorders originate from mutations of mitochondrial DNA, because for a long time only mutations or deletions of mitochondrial DNA were identified. However, the number of known disease-causing mutations in nuclear genes is steadily growing. These genes encode the various subunits of each complex, ancillary proteins functioning at different stages of holoenzyme biogenesis, including transcription, translation, chaperoning, addition of prosthetic groups, and protein assembly, and various enzymes involved in mitochondrial DNA metabolism.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / genetics
  • Mitochondrial Diseases / genetics*
  • Mitochondrial Diseases / metabolism
  • Mutation


  • DNA, Mitochondrial