The mitochondrial tRNA(Leu)(UUR) (R=A or G) gene possesses several hot spots for pathogenic mutations. A point mutation at nucleotide position 3243 or 3271 is associated with mitochondrial myopathy, encephalopathy, lactic acidosis, and stroke-like episodes and maternally inherited diabetes with deafness. Detailed studies on two tRNAs(Leu)(UUR) with the 3243 or 3271 mutation revealed some common characteristics in cybrid cells: (i) a decreased life span, resulting in a 70% decrease in the amounts of the tRNAs in the steady state, (ii) a slight decrease in the ratios of aminoacyl- tRNAs(Leu)(UUR) versus uncharged tRNAs(Leu)(UUR), and (iii) accurate aminoacylation with leucine without any misacylation. As a marked result, both of the mutant tRNA molecules were deficient in a modification of uridine that occurs in the normal tRNA(Leu)(UUR) at the first position of the anticodon. The lack of this modification may lead to the mistranslation of leucine into non-cognate phenylalanine codons by mutant tRNAs(Leu)(UUR), according to the mitochondrial wobble rule, and/or a decrease in the rate of mitochondrial protein synthesis. This finding could explain why two different mutations (3243 and 3271) manifest indistinguishable clinical features.
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