Depletion of mitochondrial DNA associated with infantile cholestasis and progressive liver fibrosis

J Hepatol. 1999 Jan;30(1):149-55. doi: 10.1016/s0168-8278(99)80019-1.


Few cases of infantile liver disease associated with mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) depletion have been reported. Most of the patients died before 1 year of age of severe liver failure. We describe a new case, a 28-month-old child, presenting with cholestasis at age 2 months, complicated by progressive portal and lobular liver fibrosis. Growth and psychomotor development are undisturbed. There is no clinical evidence of either myopathy or neurological involvement. Metabolic investigation in plasma revealed an abnormal oxido-reduction status after fasting and after carbohydrate-rich meals. Light microscopy performed on liver biopsies revealed steatosis, abnormal hepatocytes with an "oncocytic" appearance and extensive fibrosis. Electron microscopic investigation showed an increased number of mitochondria with rare or enlarged cristae. Biochemical studies of liver biopsies showed that the respiratory chain activities containing mtDNA-encoded subunits were severely decreased (complexes I, III and IV). In contrast, the complex II activity was normal and the citrate synthase activity was greatly increased. Southern blotting analysis revealed that the ratio of mtDNA to nuclear DNA in liver was only 15% and 20% of the mean control value at ages 12 and 21 months, respectively. For this mtDNA depletion syndrome which is clinically expressed in the liver, a liver transplantation is discussed.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Cholestasis / genetics*
  • Cholestasis / pathology
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Liver / enzymology
  • Liver / pathology
  • Liver Cirrhosis / genetics*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / pathology
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Mitochondria, Liver / enzymology
  • Mitochondria, Liver / metabolism*


  • DNA, Mitochondrial