The Leber's hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON) is a rare disease caused by mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutations. Beside primary mutations, the effect of secondary mtDNA mutations in still unclear. We examined the effect of secondary mtDNA mutations on secondary structure of different mitochondrial RNAs. Whole mitochondrial genome sequence of LHON patients has been obtained from in six non related pedigrees by Sanger sequencing method. The effect of mutations located in mitochondrial RNA genes was examined by creating in silico models of RNA secondary and regional 3D structure, accompanied by sequence conservation analysis. All three primary LHON mutations (m.3460G>A, m.11778G>A and m.14484 T>C) were revealed in study families. Four mutations in MT-RNR1 gene (m.750A>G, m.956delC, m.1438A>G and m.1555A>G) were identified and only an m.1555A>G causes significant changes of secondary structure of mitochondrial 12S ribosomal RNA (rRNA), while it is the only mutation which does not alter its 3D structure. Five mutations (m.1811A>G, m.2706A>G, m.2831G>A, m.3010G>A and m.3197T>C) were discovered in MT-RNR2 gene and all of them induced substantial alterations of mitochondrial 16S rRNA secondary structure. Significant changes of mitochondrial 16S rRNA 3D structure are caused by m.1811A>G, m.2706A>G, m.3010G>A and m.3197T>C. A single insertion variant (m.15986insG) has been found in the MT-TP gene which encodes mitochondrial transfer RNA for Proline (tRNA Pro). This mutation does not cause substantial changes of tRNA for Proline secondary structure, while the 3D geometry remains without major changes. Most of the mutation loci exhibited high level of sequence conservation. Presence of multiple mutations in a single family appears to cause more extensive changes in mitochondrial 12S and 16S rRNA, then their individual influence. The effect of discovered mutations on in silico modelled RNA structure is in a significant correlation with the present knowledge about the potential of these mutation to participate in the pathophysiology of LHON and other human diseases. The presence of certain multiple mitochondrial RNA mutations could be a possible explanation of LHON clinical presentation in some families. All revealed mutations have been evaluated for the first time in terms of in silico structural modelling. The application of bioinformatics tools such as secondary and 3D RNA structure prediction can have a great advantage in better understanding of the molecular standpoint of the LHON pathophysiology and clinical phenotype.
Keywords: In silico; Leber's hereditary optic neuropathy; Mitochondria; Mutation; RNA.
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