1 October 2019

The group of Hans Spelbrink, theme Mitochondrial diseases, in an international collaboration with French, Spanish and German groups has identified and characterized mutations in the mtDNA maintenance gene SSBP1 in families with optic atrophy and foveopathy. This paper is now online as an In Press-Preview in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.  

Mutations in genes encoding components of the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) replication machinery cause mtDNA depletion syndromes (MDS), which associate ocular features with severe neurological syndromes. Here, we identified heterozygous missense mutations in SSBP1 in five unrelated families, leading to the R38Q and R107Q amino-acid changes in the mitochondrial single-stranded DNA-binding protein, a crucial protein involved in mtDNA replication. All affected individuals presented optic atrophy, associated with foveopathy in half of the cases. To uncover the structural features underlying SSBP1 mutations, we determined a new revised SSBP1 crystal structure. Structural analysis suggests that both mutations affect dimer interactions and presumably distort the DNA binding region.Using patient fibroblasts, we validated that the R38Q variant destabilizes SSBP1 dimer/tetramer formation, affects mtDNA replication and induces mtDNA depletion. Our study, showing that mutations in SSBP1 cause a novel form of dominant optic atrophy frequently accompanied with foveopathy, brings new insights into mtDNA maintenance disorders.
 

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