Multiple respiratory chain deficiencies represent a common cause of mitochondrial diseases and are associated with a wide range of clinical symptoms. We report a subject, born to consanguineous parents, with growth retardation and neurological deterioration. Multiple respiratory chain deficiency was found in muscle and fibroblasts of the subject as well as abnormal assembly of complexes I and IV. A microsatellite genotyping of the family members detected only one region of homozygosity on chromosome 17q24.2-q25.3 in which we focused our attention to genes involved in mitochondrial translation. We sequenced MRPL12, encoding the mitochondrial ribosomal protein L12 and identified a c.542C>T transition in exon 5 changing a highly conserved alanine into a valine (p.Ala181Val). This mutation resulted in a decreased steady-state level of MRPL12 protein, with altered integration into the large ribosomal subunit. Moreover, an overall mitochondrial translation defect was observed in the subject's fibroblasts with a significant reduction of synthesis of COXI, COXII and COXIII subunits. Modeling of MRPL12 shows Ala181 positioned in a helix potentially involved in an interface of interaction suggesting that the p.Ala181Val change might be predicted to alter interactions with the elongation factors. These results contrast with the eubacterial orthologues of human MRPL12, where L7/L12 proteins do not appear to have a selective effect on translation. Therefore, analysis of the mutated version found in the subject presented here suggests that the mammalian protein does not function in an entirely analogous manner to the eubacterial L7/L12 equivalent.
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