Complex III (cytochrome bc1) is a protein complex of the mitochondrial inner membrane that transfers electrons from ubiquinol to cytochrome c. Its assembly requires the coordinated expression of mitochondrial-encoded cytochrome b and nuclear-encoded subunits and assembly factors. Complex III deficiency is a severe multisystem disorder caused by mutations in subunit genes or assembly factors. Sequence-profile-based orthology predicts C11orf83, hereafter named UQCC3, to be the ortholog of the fungal complex III assembly factor CBP4. We describe a homozygous c.59T>A missense mutation in UQCC3 from a consanguineous patient diagnosed with isolated complex III deficiency, displaying lactic acidosis, hypoglycemia, hypotonia and delayed development without dysmorphic features. Patient fibroblasts have reduced complex III activity and lower levels of the holocomplex and its subunits than controls. They have no detectable UQCC3 protein and have lower levels of cytochrome b protein. Furthermore, in patient cells, cytochrome b is absent from a high-molecular-weight complex III. UQCC3 is reduced in cells depleted for the complex III assembly factors UQCC1 and UQCC2. Conversely, absence of UQCC3 in patient cells does not affect UQCC1 and UQCC2. This suggests that UQCC3 functions in the complex III assembly pathway downstream of UQCC1 and UQCC2 and is consistent with what is known about the function of Cbp4 and of the fungal orthologs of UQCC1 and UQCC2, Cbp3 and Cbp6. We conclude that UQCC3 functions in complex III assembly and that the c.59T>A mutation has a causal role in complex III deficiency.
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