Leber's hereditary optic neuropathy and complex I deficiency in muscle

Ann Neurol. 1991 Nov;30(5):701-8. doi: 10.1002/ana.410300511.


We investigated a family with Leber's hereditary optic neuropathy in which affected individuals were homoplasmic for the point mutation of the NADH-dehydrogenase 4 gene of mitochondrial DNA, described by Wallace and colleagues in 1988. The proband had bilateral optic atrophy, tremor, dystonia, and sharply defined lesions in the putamen on magnetic resonance images. Optic atrophy was found in another 3 of 13 investigated relatives on the maternal side. Additional neurological signs were found but only in patients with optic neuropathy. The morphological appearance and the respiratory chain function of muscle tissue were investigated in the proband, his mother, and 3 siblings. Polarographic measurements revealed complex I deficiency in the 5 investigated subjects. Morphological changes of mitochondria were found in 4 of these subjects. There was no decrease in complex I activity measured as NADH ferricyanide reductase or rotenone-sensitive NADH cytochrome c reductase activities. In other cases with complex I deficiency, good agreement between polarographic and spectrophotometric measurements was found. This study showed that there is decreased activity of complex I of the respiratory chain in muscle and that cerebral striatal lesions occur in Leber's hereditary optic neuropathy with the NADH-dehydrogenase 4 gene point mutation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain / pathology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Mitochondria, Muscle / enzymology*
  • Muscle Proteins / deficiency*
  • Muscle Proteins / genetics
  • NAD(P)H Dehydrogenase (Quinone) / deficiency*
  • NAD(P)H Dehydrogenase (Quinone) / genetics
  • Optic Atrophies, Hereditary / enzymology*
  • Optic Atrophies, Hereditary / genetics
  • Optic Atrophies, Hereditary / pathology
  • Pedigree
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Muscle Proteins
  • NAD(P)H Dehydrogenase (Quinone)