Molecular-clinical correlations in a family with variable tissue mitochondrial DNA T8993G mutant load

Mol Genet Metab. 2006 Aug;88(4):364-71. doi: 10.1016/j.ymgme.2006.02.001. Epub 2006 Mar 20.


Unlike many pathogenic mitochondrial DNA mutations, the T8993G mutation associated with Leigh syndrome (LS) and neurogenic muscle weakness, ataxia, retinitis pigmentosa (NARP) typically shows little variation in mutant load between different tissue types. We describe the molecular and clinical findings in a family with variable disease severity and tissue T8993G mutant loads. Real-time ARMS qPCR testing showed that two brothers with features of NARP and LS had high mutant loads (>90%) in all tissues tested, similar to previously reported cases. Their sister, who has mild speech delay but attends normal school, was found to have a relatively high mutant load (mean 93%) in tissues derived from endoderm (buccal mucosa) and mesoderm (blood and skin fibroblasts). However, in tissue derived from ectoderm (hair bulbs), she carried a considerably lower proportion of mutant mtDNA. Because both surface ectoderm, which gives rise to outer epithelia and hair, and neuroectoderm, which gives rise to the central nervous system, are derived from ectoderm, it is tempting to speculate that the mutant load detected in the oligosymptomatic sister's hair bulbs is a reflection of the brain mutant load. We conclude that significant variation in tissue mutant load may occur in at least some individuals that harbor the T8993G mutation. This adds additional complexity to genetic counseling and prenatal diagnosis in such instances. Given the shared embryonic origin of hair bulbs and brain, we recommend performing hair bulb mtDNA analysis in asymptomatic or oligosymptomatic individuals that have high blood mutant loads in order to understand better the genotype-phenotype correlations related to the T8993G mutation.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Ataxia / genetics
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / blood
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / physiology
  • Family
  • Female
  • Fibroblasts
  • Hair Follicle
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Leigh Disease / genetics*
  • Male
  • Mouth Mucosa / cytology
  • Muscle Weakness / genetics
  • Oogenesis / genetics
  • Pedigree
  • Point Mutation*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Polymorphism, Restriction Fragment Length
  • Retinitis Pigmentosa / genetics
  • Skin / cytology
  • Syndrome


  • DNA, Mitochondrial