Mitochondrial transcript maturation and its disorders

J Inherit Metab Dis. 2015 Jul;38(4):655-80. doi: 10.1007/s10545-015-9859-z. Epub 2015 May 28.


Mitochondrial respiratory chain deficiencies exhibit a wide spectrum of clinical presentations owing to defective mitochondrial energy production through oxidative phosphorylation. These defects can be caused by either mutations in the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) or mutations in nuclear genes coding for mitochondrially-targeted proteins. The underlying pathomechanisms can affect numerous pathways involved in mitochondrial biology including expression of mtDNA-encoded genes. Expression of the mitochondrial genes is extensively regulated at the post-transcriptional stage and entails nucleolytic cleavage of precursor RNAs, RNA nucleotide modifications, RNA polyadenylation, RNA quality and stability control. These processes ensure proper mitochondrial RNA (mtRNA) function, and are regulated by dedicated, nuclear-encoded enzymes. Recent growing evidence suggests that mutations in these nuclear genes, leading to incorrect maturation of RNAs, are a cause of human mitochondrial disease. Additionally, mutations in mtDNA-encoded genes may also affect RNA maturation and are frequently associated with human disease. We review the current knowledge on a subset of nuclear-encoded genes coding for proteins involved in mitochondrial RNA maturation, for which genetic variants impacting upon mitochondrial pathophysiology have been reported. Also, primary pathological mtDNA mutations with recognised effects upon RNA processing are described.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • DNA, Mitochondrial / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Mitochondria / pathology*
  • Mitochondrial Diseases / genetics
  • Mitochondrial Diseases / metabolism*
  • Mitochondrial Diseases / pathology*
  • RNA / biosynthesis
  • RNA / genetics


  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • RNA