Macular Microcysts in Mitochondrial Optic Neuropathies: Prevalence and Retinal Layer Thickness Measurements

PLoS One. 2015 Jun 5;10(6):e0127906. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0127906. eCollection 2015.


Purpose: To investigate the thickness of the retinal layers and to assess the prevalence of macular microcysts (MM) in the inner nuclear layer (INL) of patients with mitochondrial optic neuropathies (MON).

Methods: All patients with molecularly confirmed MON, i.e. Leber's Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON) and Dominant Optic Atrophy (DOA), referred between 2010 and 2012 were enrolled. Eight patients with MM were compared with two control groups: MON patients without MM matched by age, peripapillary retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) thickness, and visual acuity, as well as age-matched controls. Retinal segmentation was performed using specific Optical coherence tomography (OCT) software (Carl Zeiss Meditec). Macular segmentation thickness values of the three groups were compared by one-way analysis of variance with Bonferroni post hoc corrections.

Results: MM were identified in 5/90 (5.6%) patients with LHON and 3/58 (5.2%) with DOA. The INL was thicker in patients with MON compared to controls regardless of the presence of MM [133.1±7μm vs 122.3±9μm in MM patients (p<0.01) and 128.5±8μm vs. 122.3±9μm in no-MM patients (p<0.05)], however the outer nuclear layer (ONL) was thicker in patients with MM (101.4±1mμ) compared to patients without MM [77.5±8mμ (p<0.001)] and controls [78.4±7mμ (p<0.001)]. ONL thickness did not significantly differ between patients without MM and controls.

Conclusion: The prevalence of MM in MON is low (5-6%), but associated with ONL thickening. We speculate that in MON patients with MM, vitreo-retinal traction contributes to the thickening of ONL as well as to the production of cystic spaces.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Fibers / physiology
  • Optic Atrophy, Autosomal Dominant / epidemiology
  • Optic Atrophy, Autosomal Dominant / pathology
  • Optic Atrophy, Hereditary, Leber / epidemiology
  • Optic Atrophy, Hereditary, Leber / pathology*
  • Optic Nerve / physiology
  • Prevalence
  • Radiography
  • Retina / diagnostic imaging
  • Retina / physiopathology*
  • Tomography, Optical Coherence
  • Visual Acuity