Mitochondrial cytopathies

Cell Calcium. 2016 Sep;60(3):199-206. doi: 10.1016/j.ceca.2016.03.003. Epub 2016 Mar 4.


Mitochondria are found in all nucleated human cells and perform a variety of essential functions, including the generation of cellular energy. Most of mitochondrial proteins are encoded by the nuclear DNA (nDNA) whereas a very small fraction is encoded by the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). Mutations in mtDNA or mitochondria-related nDNA genes can result in mitochondrial dysfunction which leads to a wide range of cellular perturbations including aberrant calcium homeostasis, excessive reactive oxygen species production, dysregulated apoptosis, and insufficient energy generation to meet the needs of various organs, particularly those with high energy demand. Impaired mitochondrial function in various tissues and organs results in the multi-organ manifestations of mitochondrial diseases including epilepsy, intellectual disability, skeletal and cardiac myopathies, hepatopathies, endocrinopathies, and nephropathies. Defects in nDNA genes can be inherited in an autosomal or X-linked manners, whereas, mtDNA is maternally inherited. Mitochondrial diseases can result from mutations of nDNA genes encoding subunits of the electron transport chain complexes or their assembly factors, proteins associated with the mitochondrial import or networking, mitochondrial translation factors, or proteins involved in mtDNA maintenance. MtDNA defects can be either point mutations or rearrangements. The diagnosis of mitochondrial disorders can be challenging in many cases and is based on clinical recognition, biochemical screening, histopathological studies, functional studies, and molecular genetic testing. Currently, there are no satisfactory therapies available for mitochondrial disorders that significantly alter the course of the disease. Therapeutic options include symptomatic treatment, cofactor supplementation, and exercise.

Keywords: Diagnosis of mitochondrial diseases; Electron transport chain; Mitochondrial DNA; Mitochondrial diseases; Mitochondrial dysfunction; Treatment of mitochondrial diseases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Humans
  • Kearns-Sayre Syndrome / genetics
  • Kearns-Sayre Syndrome / pathology*
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Mitochondria / pathology
  • Mitochondrial Myopathies / genetics
  • Mitochondrial Myopathies / pathology*
  • Models, Biological

Supplementary concepts

  • Mitochondrial cytopathy