AIMS: To evaluate the mitochondrial respiratory enzyme activities in blood cells of Leber's hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON) with 11778 point mutation of mitochondrial DNA. METHODS: Assays for the activities of NADH-cytochrome c reductase (complex I+complex III), succinate-cytochrome c reductase (complex II+complex III), and cytochrome c oxidase (complex IV) on blood cell mitochondria of seven LHON patients and 15 normal controls. RESULTS: There was no statistically significant difference in NADH-cytochrome c reductase and cytochrome c oxidase activities between LHON patients and controls, but activities of succinate-cytochrome c reductase in LHON patients was significantly elevated compared with normal controls. CONCLUSION: The observations that the activity of NADH-cytochrome c reductase is normal but that of succinate-cytochrome c reductase is increased in LHON patients with 11778 point mutation of mitochondrial DNA indicate an elevation of complex II activity, which may be due to a nuclear compensatory effect for defects of the respiratory function of mitochondria.
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