The retina is an exquisite target for defects of oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) associated with mitochondrial impairment. Retinal involvement occurs in two ways, retinal dystrophy (retinitis pigmentosa) and subacute or chronic optic atrophy, which are the most common clinical entities. Both can present as isolated or virtually exclusive conditions, or as part of more complex, frequently multisystem syndromes. In most cases, mutations of mtDNA have been found in association with mitochondrial retinopathy. The main genetic abnormalities of mtDNA include mutations associated with neurogenic muscle weakness, ataxia and retinitis pigmentosa (NARP) sometimes with earlier onset and increased severity (maternally inherited Leigh syndrome, MILS), single large-scale deletions determining Kearns-Sayre syndrome (KSS, of which retinal dystrophy is a cardinal symptom), and mutations, particularly in mtDNA-encoded ND genes, associated with Leber hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON). However, mutations in nuclear genes can also cause mitochondrial retinopathy, including autosomal recessive phenocopies of LHON, and slowly progressive optic atrophy caused by dominant or, more rarely, recessive, mutations in the fusion/mitochondrial shaping protein OPA1, encoded by a nuclear gene on chromosome 3q29.
Keywords: Kearns-Sayre syndrome; Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON); ataxia and retinitis pigmentosa (NARP); autosomal dominant optic atrophy (ADOA); mitochondrial DNA; mitochondrial disorders; mtDNA heteroplasmic deletions; neurogenic muscle weakness; optic atrophy; retina; retinitis pigmentosa.