Biochemical analysis of human POLG2 variants associated with mitochondrial disease

Hum Mol Genet. 2011 Aug 1;20(15):3052-66. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddr209. Epub 2011 May 9.


Defects in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) maintenance comprise an expanding repertoire of polymorphic diseases caused, in part, by mutations in the genes encoding the p140 mtDNA polymerase (POLG), its p55 accessory subunit (POLG2) or the mtDNA helicase (C10orf2). In an exploration of nuclear genes for mtDNA maintenance linked to mitochondrial disease, eight heterozygous mutations (six novel) in POLG2 were identified in one control and eight patients with POLG-related mitochondrial disease that lacked POLG mutations. Of these eight mutations, we biochemically characterized seven variants [c.307G>A (G103S); c.457C>G (L153V); c.614C>G (P205R); c.1105A>G (R369G); c.1158T>G (D386E); c.1268C>A (S423Y); c.1423_1424delTT (L475DfsX2)] that were previously uncharacterized along with the wild-type protein and the G451E pathogenic variant. These seven mutations encode amino acid substitutions that map throughout the protein, including the p55 dimer interface and the C-terminal domain that interacts with the catalytic subunit. Recombinant proteins harboring these alterations were assessed for stimulation of processive DNA synthesis, binding to the p140 catalytic subunit, binding to dsDNA and self-dimerization. Whereas the G103S, L153V, D386E and S423Y proteins displayed wild-type behavior, the P205R and R369G p55 variants had reduced stimulation of processivity and decreased affinity for the catalytic subunit. Additionally, the L475DfsX2 variant, which possesses a C-terminal truncation, was unable to bind the p140 catalytic subunit, unable to bind dsDNA and formed aberrant oligomeric complexes. Our biochemical analysis helps explain the pathogenesis of POLG2 mutations in mitochondrial disease and emphasizes the need to quantitatively characterize the biochemical consequences of newly discovered mutations before classifying them as pathogenic.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Substitution
  • Blotting, Western
  • Chromatography, Gel
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / chemistry
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / genetics*
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Immunoprecipitation
  • Mitochondrial Diseases / genetics*
  • Mitochondrial Diseases / metabolism*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation
  • Protein Structure, Secondary


  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase
  • POLG2 protein, human