Tissue-specific splicing of ISCU results in a skeletal muscle phenotype in myopathy with lactic acidosis, while complete loss of ISCU results in early embryonic death in mice

Hum Genet. 2011 Apr;129(4):371-8. doi: 10.1007/s00439-010-0931-3. Epub 2010 Dec 17.


Hereditary myopathy with lactic acidosis (HML) is caused by an intron mutation in the iron-sulphur cluster assembly gene (ISCU) leading to incorporation of intron sequence into the mRNA. This results in a deficiency of Fe-S cluster proteins, affecting the TCA cycle and the respiratory chain. The proteins involved in the Fe-S machinery are evolutionary conserved and shown to be fundamental in all organisms examined. ISCU is expressed at high levels in numerous tissues in mammals, including high metabolic tissues like the heart, suggesting that a drastic mutation in the ISCU gene would be damaging to all energy-demanding organs. In spite of this, the symptoms in patients with HML are restricted to skeletal muscle, and it has been proposed that splicing events may contribute to the muscle specificity. In this study we confirm that a striking difference in the splicing pattern of mutant ISCU exists between different tissues. The highest level of incorrectly spliced ISCU mRNA was found in skeletal muscle, while the normal splice form predominated in patient heart. The splicing differences were also reflected at a functional level, where loss of Fe-S cluster carrying enzymes and accumulation of iron were present in muscle, but absent in other tissues. We also show that complete loss of ISCU in mice results in early embryonic death. The mice data confirm a fundamental role for ISCU in mammals and further support tissue-specific splicing as the major mechanism limiting the phenotype to skeletal muscle in HML.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acidosis, Lactic / genetics*
  • Acidosis, Lactic / metabolism
  • Adult
  • Alternative Splicing*
  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Embryo, Mammalian / embryology
  • Embryo, Mammalian / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iron-Sulfur Proteins / genetics*
  • Iron-Sulfur Proteins / metabolism
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology
  • Muscular Diseases / genetics*
  • Muscular Diseases / metabolism
  • Myocardium / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult


  • ISCU protein, human
  • Iron-Sulfur Proteins
  • IscU protein, mouse