With the advent of next generation sequencing, the list of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutations identified in patients rapidly and continuously expands. They are frequently found in a limited number of cases, sometimes a single individual (as with the case herein reported) and in heterogeneous genetic backgrounds (heteroplasmy), which makes it difficult to conclude about their pathogenicity and functional consequences. As an organism amenable to mitochondrial DNA manipulation, able to survive by fermentation to loss-of-function mtDNA mutations, and where heteroplasmy is unstable, Saccharomyces cerevisiae is an excellent model for investigating novel human mtDNA variants, in isolation and in a controlled genetic context. We herein report the identification of a novel variant in mitochondrial ATP6 gene, m.8909T>C. It was found in combination with the well-known pathogenic m.3243A>G mutation in mt-tRNALeu. We show that an equivalent of the m.8909T>C mutation compromises yeast adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP) synthase assembly/stability and reduces the rate of mitochondrial ATP synthesis by 20-30% compared to wild type yeast. Other previously reported ATP6 mutations with a well-established pathogenicity (like m.8993T>C and m.9176T>C) were shown to have similar effects on yeast ATP synthase. It can be inferred that alone the m.8909T>C variant has the potential to compromise human health.
Keywords: ATP synthase; C; MT-ATP6; m.8909T> mitochondrial disease; nephropathy; oxidative phosphorylation.