Congenital deficiency of a 20-kDa subunit of mitochondrial complex I in fibroblasts

Am J Hum Genet. 1991 Jun;48(6):1121-6.


The first component of the mitochondrial electron-transport chain is especially complex, consisting of 19 nuclear and seven mitochondrion-encoded subunits. Accordingly, a wide range of clinical manifestations are produced by the various mutations occurring in human populations. In this study, we analyze the subunit structure of complex I in fibroblasts from two patients who have distinct clinical phenotypes associated with complex I deficiency. The first patient died in the second week of life from overwhelming lactic acidosis. Severe complex I deficiency was evident in her fibroblasts, since alanine oxidation was markedly reduced whereas succinate oxidation was normal. Absence of a 20-kDa subunit was demonstrable when newly synthesized proteins were immunoprecipitated from pulse-labeled fibroblasts by anti-complex I antibody. Disordered assembly or decreased stability of the complex was suggested by deficiency of multiple subunits on Western immunoblots. The second patient exhibited a milder clinical phenotype, characterized by moderate lactic acidosis and developmental delay in childhood and by onset of seizures at 8 years of age. Oxidation studies demonstrated expression of the complex I deficiency in fibroblasts, but no subunit abnormalities were detected by immunoprecipitation or Western immunoblotting. This report demonstrates the utility of cultured fibroblasts in studying mutations affecting synthesis and assembly of complex I.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alanine / chemistry
  • Blotting, Southern
  • Child
  • DNA / analysis
  • Fibroblasts / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Mitochondria / chemistry*
  • Molecular Weight
  • NAD(P)H Dehydrogenase (Quinone)
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Phenotype
  • Precipitin Tests
  • Quinone Reductases / deficiency*
  • Succinates / chemistry
  • Succinic Acid


  • Succinates
  • DNA
  • Succinic Acid
  • NAD(P)H Dehydrogenase (Quinone)
  • Quinone Reductases
  • Alanine