Comparison of lymphoblast mitochondria from normal subjects and patients with Barth syndrome using electron microscopic tomography

Lab Invest. 2007 Jan;87(1):40-8. doi: 10.1038/labinvest.3700480. Epub 2006 Oct 16.


Barth syndrome (BTHS) is a mitochondrial disorder that is caused by mutations in the tafazzin gene, which affects phospholipid composition. To determine whether this defect leads to alterations in the internal three-dimensional organization of mitochondrial membranes, we applied electron microscopic tomography to lymphoblast mitochondria from BTHS patients and controls. Tomograms were formed from 50 and 150 nm sections of chemically fixed lymphoblasts and the data were used to manually segment volumes of relevant structural details. Normal lymphoblast mitochondria contained well-aligned, lamellar cristae with slot-like junctions to the inner boundary membrane. In BTHS, mitochondrial size was more variable and the total mitochondrial volume per cell increased mainly due to clusters of fragmented mitochondria inside nuclear invaginations. However, mitochondria showed reduced cristae density, less cristae alignment, and inhomogeneous cristae distribution. Three-dimensional reconstruction of BTHS mitochondria revealed zones of adhesion of the opposing inner membranes, causing obliteration of the intracrista space. We found small isolated patches of adhesion as well as extended adhesion zones, resulting in sheets of collapsed cristae packaged in multiple concentric layers. We also found large tubular structures (diameter 30-150 nm) that appeared to be derivatives of the adhesion zones. The data suggest that mitochondrial abnormalities of BTHS involve adhesions of inner mitochondrial membranes with subsequent collapse of the intracristae space.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acyltransferases
  • Cardiomyopathy, Dilated / genetics
  • Cardiomyopathy, Dilated / pathology*
  • Cell Line, Transformed / ultrastructure
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Genetic Diseases, X-Linked / pathology
  • Genetic Diseases, X-Linked / ultrastructure*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Infant
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Lymphocytes / ultrastructure*
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Mitochondria / pathology
  • Mitochondria / ultrastructure*
  • Mitochondrial Diseases / genetics*
  • Proteins / genetics
  • Syndrome
  • Tomography, Optical
  • Transcription Factors / genetics


  • Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Acyltransferases
  • TAFAZZIN protein, human