Molecular bases, pathogenic mechanisms and possible therapeutic approach in Leber's Hereditary Optic Neuropathy

Iommarini, Luisa (2009) Molecular bases, pathogenic mechanisms and possible therapeutic approach in Leber's Hereditary Optic Neuropathy, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Biologia e fisiologia cellulare, 21 Ciclo. DOI 10.6092/unibo/amsdottorato/1626.
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Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON) is a mitochondrial disease characterized by a rapid loss of central vision and optic atrophy, due to the selective degeneration of retinal ganglion cells. The age of onset is around 20, and the degenerative process is fast and usually the second eye becomes affected in weeks or months. Even if this pathology is well known and has been well characterized, there are still open questions on its pathophysiology, such as the male prevalence, the incomplete penetrance and the tissue selectivity. This maternally inherited disease is caused by mutations in mitochondrial encoded genes of NADH ubiquinone oxidoreductase (complex I) of the respiratory chain. The 90% of LHON cases are caused by one of the three common mitochondrial DNA mutations (11778/ND4, 14484/ND6 and 3460/ND1) and the remaining 10% is caused by rare pathogenic mutations, reported in literature in one or few families. Moreover, there is also a small subset of patients reported with new putative pathogenic nucleotide changes, which awaits to be confirmed. We here clarify some molecular aspects of LHON, mainly the incomplete penetrance and the role of rare mtDNA mutations or variants on LHON expression, and attempt a possible therapeutic approach using the cybrids cell model. We generated novel structural models for mitochondrial encoded complex I subunits and a conservation analysis and pathogenicity prediction have been carried out for LHON reported mutations. This in-silico approach allowed us to locate LHON pathogenic mutations in defined and conserved protein domains and can be a useful tool in the analysis of novel mtDNA variants with unclear pathogenic/functional role. Four rare LHON pathogenic mutations have been identified, confirming that the ND1 and ND6 genes are mutational hot spots for LHON. All mutations were previously described at least once and we validated their pathogenic role, suggesting the need for their screening in LHON diagnostic protocols. Two novel mtDNA variants with a possible pathogenic role have been also identified in two independent branches of a large pedigree. Functional studies are necessary to define their contribution to LHON in this family. It also been demonstrated that the combination of mtDNA rare polymorphic variants is relevant in determining the maternal recurrence of myoclonus in unrelated LHON pedigrees. Thus, we suggest that particular mtDNA backgrounds and /or the presence of specific rare mutations may increase the pathogenic potential of the primary LHON mutations, thereby giving rise to the extraocular clinical features characteristic of the LHON “plus” phenotype. We identified the first molecular parameter that clearly discriminates LHON affected individuals from asymptomatic carriers, the mtDNA copy number. This provides a valuable mechanism for future investigations on variable penetrance in LHON. However, the increased mtDNA content in LHON individuals was not correlated to the functional polymorphism G1444A of PGC-1 alpha, the master regulator of mitochondrial biogenesis, but may be due to gene expression of genes involved in this signaling pathway, such as PGC-1 alpha/beta and Tfam. Future studies will be necessary to identify the biochemical effects of rare pathogenic mutations and to validate the novel candidate mutations here described, in terms of cellular bioenergetic characterization of these variants. Moreover, we were not able to induce mitochondrial biogenesis in cybrids cell lines using bezafibrate. However, other cell line models are available, such as fibroblasts harboring LHON mutations, or other approaches can be used to trigger the mitochondrial biogenesis.

Tipologia del documento
Tesi di dottorato
Iommarini, Luisa
Dottorato di ricerca
Scuola di dottorato
Scienze biologiche, biomediche e biotecnologiche
Settore disciplinare
Settore concorsuale
Parole chiave
mitochondria, mtDNA, mitochondrial biogenesis, LHON, mitochondrial diseases, pathogenic mutations
Data di discussione
21 Aprile 2009

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