Objective: Mitochondrial complex I deficiency is the commonest diagnosed respiratory chain defect, being genetically heterogeneous. The male preponderance of previous patient cohorts suggested an X-linked underlying genetic defect. We investigated mutations in the X-chromosomal complex I structural genes, NDUFA1 and NDUFB11, as a novel cause of mitochondrial encephalomyopathy.
Methods: We sequenced 12 nuclear genes and the mitochondrial DNA-encoded complex I genes in 26 patients with respiratory chain complex I defect. Novel mutations were confirmed by polymerase chain reaction restriction length polymorphism. Assembly/stability studies in fibroblasts were performed using two-dimensional blue native gel electrophoresis.
Results: Two novel p.Gly8Arg and p.Arg37Ser hemizygous mutations in NDUFA1 were identified in two unrelated male patients presenting with Leigh's syndrome and with myoclonic epilepsy and developmental delay, respectively. Two-dimensional blue native gel electrophoresis showed decreased levels of intact complex I with no accumulation of lower molecular weight subcomplexes, indicating that assembly, stability, or both are compromised.
Interpretation: Mutations in the X-linked NDUFA1 gene result in complex I defect and encephalomyopathy. Assembly/stability analysis might give an explanation for the different clinical phenotypes and become useful for future diagnostic purposes.