Partial depletion and multiple deletions of muscle mtDNA in familial MNGIE syndrome

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To describe the unique combination of partial depletion and multiple deletions of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) on muscle DNA analysis of three siblings with mitochondrial neurogastrointestinal encephalomyopathy (MNGIE).


MNGIE is a relatively homogeneous autosomal recessive disorder characterized by gastrointestinal dysmobility, ophthalmoparesis, peripheral neuropathy, mitochondrial myopathy, and altered white matter signal at brain imaging. Muscle multiple mtDNA deletions have been found in about half of the described cases.


We studied three affected siblings (two were monozygotic twins) born to nonconsanguineous parents. Muscle mtDNA was investigated by quantitative Southern and Slot blot techniques and by PCR analysis. Morphologic confirmation in the muscle tissue was achieved by using in situ hybridization with a mtDNA probe complementary to an undeleted region and by DNA immunohistochemistry.


All three patient showed ragged red (RRF) and cytochrome c oxidase-negative fibers, as well as partial deficiency of complexes I and IV. Southern and Slot blot analyses showed mtDNA depletion in all patients. Multiple mtDNA deletions were also detected by PCR analysis. In situ hybridization demonstrated an overall signal weaker than controls, with a relatively higher signal in RRF. Antibodies against DNA showed a decreased cytoplasmic network.


The muscle histopathology and respiratory chain enzyme defects may be accounted for by the decreased mtDNA amount and by the presence of mtDNA deleted molecules; however, relative levels of mtDNA seem to correlate with life span in these patients. The combination of partial depletion and multiple deletions of mtDNA might indicate the derangement of a common genetic mechanism controlling mtDNA copy number and integrity.

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