Mutations in the mitochondrial gene were recently identified in a large pedigree of diabetes mellitus and deafness. As the mitochondrial gene is maternally inherited, Japanese diabetic patients whose mothers were also diabetic were screened, using peripheral leucocytes, for an A to G transition at nucleotide pair 3243 of the mitochondrial gene, a tRNALeu(UUR) mutation. This mutation was identified in four pedigrees from among 300 unrelated patients who were screened. Diabetes co-segregated with the mutation, except in one young subject, and was maternally inherited. The apparent onset of disease occurred between 11 and 68 years of age. Some of the affected members developed hearing impairment and congestive heart failure due to cardiomyopathy, though generally long after the onset of diabetes, and these patients had therefore not been diagnosed as having a specific form of diabetes. The duration of sulphonyl-urea treatment was not more than 8 years in these pedigrees and affected members were prone to progression to insulin-requiring diabetes. Thus, these patients were secondary sulphonylurea failures. Long-term follow-up revealed that the underlying disorder in affected members is a progressive impairment of insulin secretion. Some were initially diagnosed as having IDDM based on an apparent acute onset in youth and the clinical severity of their diabetes. Others were regarded as having MODY with an aggressive course. The mitochondrial gene mutation or diabetes is not transmitted to all offspring of the affected mothers. In conclusion, a mitochondrial tRNALeu(UUR) gene mutation accounts for slightly more than 1 % of diabetic patients with maternally inherited disease and manifests a wide range of diabetic phenotypes, from the NIDDM phenotype to IDDM, in Japanese.
- Insulin secretion impairment
- maternal inheritance
- secondary sulphonylurea failure