Mitochondrial DNA A3243G variant-associated retinopathy: Current perspectives and clinical implications

Surv Ophthalmol. 2021 Sep-Oct;66(5):838-855. doi: 10.1016/j.survophthal.2021.02.008. Epub 2021 Feb 18.


Cellular function and survival are critically dependent on the proper functionality of the mitochondrion. Neurodegenerative cellular processes including cellular adenosine triphosphate production, intermediary metabolism control, and apoptosis regulation are all mitochondrially mediated. The A to G transition at position 3243 in the mitochondrial MTTL1 gene that encodes for the leucine transfer RNA (m.3243A>G) causes a variety of diseases, including maternally inherited loss of hearing and diabetes syndrome (MIDD), mitochondrial encephalopathy, lactic acidosis, and stroke-like episodes syndrome (MELAS). Ophthalmological findings-including posterior sub-capsular cataract, ptosis, external ophthalmoplegia, and pigmentary retinopathy- have all been associated with the m.3243A>G variant. Pigmentary retinopathy is, however, the most common ocular finding, occurring in 38% to 86% of cases. To date, little is known about the pathogenesis, natural history, and heteroplasmic and phenotypic correlations of m.3243A>G-associated pigmentary retinopathy. We summarize the current understanding of mitochondrial genetics and pathogenesis of some associated diseases. We then review the pathophysiology, histology, clinical features, treatment, and important ocular and systemic phenotypic manifestations of m.3243A>G variant associated retinopathy. Mitochondrial diseases require a multidisciplinary team approach to ensure effective treatment, regular follow-up, and accurate genetic counseling.

Keywords: A3243G variant retinopathy; Heteroplasmy; Mitochondria; Pathogenesis; Prognosis; Systemic implications.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • Humans
  • MELAS Syndrome* / genetics
  • MELAS Syndrome* / pathology
  • Mitochondria / genetics
  • Mitochondrial Diseases* / genetics
  • Retinal Diseases*


  • DNA, Mitochondrial