Purpose: To investigate the incidence and clinical significance of primary or proposed secondary mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutations in Japanese patients with Leber's hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON).
Methods: Blood samples from the 80 unrelated Japanese patients with bilateral optic atrophy were screened for primary LHON mutations. Patients found to have a primary LHON mutation were then tested for 9 proposed secondary LHON mutations. We investigated the association between these mutations and clinical characteristics.
Results: Primary mtDNA mutations were identified in 68 patients: at np 3460 in 3 (4%) of 68 patients, at np 11,778 in 59 patients (87%), and at np 14,484 in 6 patients (9%). We identified 5 secondary mtDNA mutations (at np 3394, 4216, 7444, 9438 or 13,708) in 10 (15%) of 68 LHON patients and 3 mutations (at np 3394, 4216 or 3708) in 6 (7%) of 90 healthy Japanese individuals. No patient was positive for more than one secondary mutation. The frequency of secondary mutations was similar in the 68 LHON patients and 90 controls. The clinical features of the Japanese patients with any of the 3 primary LHON mutations were similar to those of Caucasian patients, despite different mtDNA backgrounds in these populations. The percentage of patients with familial LHON harboring the 3460 or 14,484 mutations was lower in the Japanese population.
Conclusions: Japanese patients with LHON exhibited a very high incidence (87%) of the 11,778 primary mutation. Most of the proposed secondary LHON mutations were rare in the Japanese population and they, except the 7444 mutation, may not influence the clinical features of LHON.