Background: Both dominant and recessive mutations were reported in the gene encoding the mitochondrial (mt) DNA polymerase gamma (POLG) in patients with progressive external ophthalmoplegia (PEO). Phenotypes other than PEO were recently documented in patients with mutations in the POLG gene.
Objective: To screen patients with mitochondrial disease and multiple mtDNA deletions in muscle for mutations in the coding regions of the POLG, PEO1, and SLC25A4 genes.
Design: To identify the underlying molecular defect in a group of patients with multiple mtDNA deletions comparing their molecular genetic findings with those of healthy controls.
Patients: Twenty-four patients (16 men and 8 women) diagnosed with mitochondrial disease and having multiple mtDNA deletions in muscle by Southern blot analysis. Thirteen patients had PEO; 2 had PEO alone, 4 had PEO and myopathy, and 5 had PEO and multisystem involvement. Four patients had multisystem disease without PEO. The remaining 9 patients had isolated myopathy. DNA from 100 healthy individuals was also studied.
Results: No mutation was identified in the PEO1 or SLC25A4 genes. Nine POLG mutations were observed in 6 of 24 patients. Four novel mutations were detected and mapped in the linker region (M603L) and in the pol domain of the enzyme (R853W; D1184N; R1146C). Five patients with PEO had mutations: 2 were compound heterozygotes, 1 was homozygous, and another showed a mutation in a single allele. The remaining patient also showed a sole mutation and had an unusual phenotype lacking ocular involvement.
Conclusions: POLG molecular defects were found in 25% of our patients with multiple mtDNA deletions and mitochondrial disease. The uncommon phenotype found in 1 of these patients stresses the clinical variability of patients harboring POLG mutations. Molecular studies in the POLG gene should be addressed in patients with mitochondrial disease, particularly in those with PEO, and multiple mtDNA deletions.