An Italian pedigree including two sisters and their mother affected by a neuro-ophthalmic disease characterised by retinitis pigmentosa, ataxia, and psychomotor retardation is reported. Molecular analysis of mitochondrial DNA showed the presence of heteroplasmic 8993 point mutation in the subunit 6 of the ATPase gene. The clinical features and genetic findings in this family were comparable with those recently described in an English family. The mitochondrial DNA analysis of the family showed a correlation between the amount of mutated DNA and the disease severity in the probands, and indicated the presence of a threshold amount of mutated genome inducing ophthalmic defects. Moreover, the comparative analysis of blood, hairs, muscle, and urinary tract epithelia of two probands revealed an essentially similar distribution of mutated and wild type mitochondrial genomes. Our results suggest that the 8993 mitochondrial DNA mutation characterises a disease with similar clinical features in different populations.
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