Mutations in MT-ATP6 are a frequent cause of adult-onset spinocerebellar ataxia

J Neurol. 2021 Dec;268(12):4866-4873. doi: 10.1007/s00415-021-10607-5. Epub 2021 May 26.


Adult-onset ataxias are a genetically and clinically heterogeneous group of movement disorders. In addition to nuclear gene mutations, sequence changes have also been described in the mitochondrial genome. Here, we present findings of mutation analysis of the mitochondrial gene MT-ATP6. We analyzed 94 patients with adult-onset spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA), including 34 sporadic cases. In all patients, common sequence changes found in SCAs such as repeat expansions and point mutations had been excluded previously. We found pathogenic MT-ATP variants in five of these patients (5.32%), two of whom were sporadic. Four of the five mutations have not previously been described in ataxias. All but one of these mutations affect transmembrane helices of subunit-α of ATP synthase. Two mutations (p.G16S, and p.P18S) disrupt transmembrane helix 1 (TMH1), one mutation (p.G167D) affects TMH5, and another one (p.L217P) TMH6. The fifth mutation (p.T96A) describes an amino acid change in close proximity to transmembrane helix 3 (TMH3). The level of heteroplasmy was either complete or very high ranging from 87 to 99%. The high prevalence of pathogenic MT-ATP6 variants suggests that analysis of this gene should be included in the routine workup of both hereditary and sporadic ataxias.

Keywords: ATP synthase; Adult-onset ataxia; Complex V defect; MT-ATP6.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ataxia
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • Humans
  • Mitochondrial Proton-Translocating ATPases* / genetics
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Spinocerebellar Ataxias* / genetics


  • MT-ATP6 protein, human
  • Mitochondrial Proton-Translocating ATPases