RRM1 variants cause a mitochondrial DNA maintenance disorder via impaired de novo nucleotide synthesis

J Clin Invest. 2022 Jul 1;132(13):e145660. doi: 10.1172/JCI145660.


Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) depletion/deletions syndromes (MDDS) encompass a clinically and etiologically heterogenous group of mitochondrial disorders caused by impaired mtDNA maintenance. Among the most frequent causes of MDDS are defects in nucleoside/nucleotide metabolism, which is critical for synthesis and homeostasis of the deoxynucleoside triphosphate (dNTP) substrates of mtDNA replication. A central enzyme for generating dNTPs is ribonucleotide reductase, a critical mediator of de novo nucleotide synthesis composed of catalytic RRM1 subunits in complex with RRM2 or p53R2. Here, we report 5 probands from 4 families who presented with ptosis and ophthalmoplegia as well as other clinical manifestations and multiple mtDNA deletions in muscle. We identified 3 RRM1 loss-of-function variants, including a dominant catalytic site variant (NP_001024.1: p.N427K) and 2 homozygous recessive variants at p.R381, which has evolutionarily conserved interactions with the specificity site. Atomistic molecular dynamics simulations indicate mechanisms by which RRM1 variants affect protein structure. Cultured primary skin fibroblasts of probands manifested mtDNA depletion under cycling conditions, indicating impaired de novo nucleotide synthesis. Fibroblasts also exhibited aberrant nucleoside diphosphate and dNTP pools and mtDNA ribonucleotide incorporation. Our data reveal that primary RRM1 deficiency and, by extension, impaired de novo nucleotide synthesis are causes of MDDS.

Keywords: Genetic diseases; Genetics; Mitochondria; Molecular pathology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • DNA Replication
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mitochondrial Diseases* / genetics
  • Nucleosides
  • Nucleotides / genetics
  • Ribonucleoside Diphosphate Reductase / genetics
  • Ribonucleoside Diphosphate Reductase / metabolism
  • Ribonucleotide Reductases* / genetics
  • Ribonucleotide Reductases* / metabolism


  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Nucleosides
  • Nucleotides
  • Ribonucleotide Reductases
  • RRM1 protein, human
  • Ribonucleoside Diphosphate Reductase