Known disease mechanisms in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) maintenance disorders alter either the mitochondrial replication machinery (POLG, POLG2 and C10orf2)1,2,3 or the biosynthesis pathways of deoxyribonucleoside 5′-triphosphates for mtDNA synthesis4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11. However, in many of these disorders, the underlying genetic defect has yet to be discovered. Here, we identify homozygous nonsense and missense mutations in the orphan gene C20orf72 in three families with a mitochondrial syndrome characterized by external ophthalmoplegia, emaciation and respiratory failure. Muscle biopsies showed mtDNA depletion and multiple mtDNA deletions. C20orf72, hereafter MGME1 (mitochondrial genome maintenance exonuclease 1), encodes a mitochondrial RecB-type exonuclease belonging to the PD–(D/E)XK nuclease superfamily. We show that MGME1 cleaves single-stranded DNA and processes DNA flap substrates. Fibroblasts from affected individuals do not repopulate after chemically induced mtDNA depletion. They also accumulate intermediates of stalled replication and show increased levels of 7S DNA, as do MGME1-depleted cells. Thus, we show that MGME1-mediated mtDNA processing is essential for mitochondrial genome maintenance.
Access optionsAccess options
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $18.75 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
NCBI Reference Sequence
T.J.N. and M. Minczuk are grateful to S. Wood and I. Holt for stimulating discussions during the course of this work. We are grateful to S. Beyer, K. Kappes-Horn, M. Stepien-Mering, E. Botz and R. Hellinger for technical assistance. We thank R. Wiesner (University of Cologne) for providing the TFAM antibody. This work was supported by the Medical Research Council UK (T.J.N., J.R. and M. Minczuk) and the German Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF) through funding of the Systems Biology of Metabotypes grant (SysMBo 0315494A), the E-Rare project GENOMIT (01GM1207) and the German Network for mitochondrial disorders (mitoNET), including C.K., T.K. (mitoNET 01GM0862 and 01GM1113A), T.M., H.P. (mitoNET 01GM0867 and 01GM1113C) and W.S.K. (mitoNET 01GM0868). W.S.K. was funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (SFB TR3 A11 and D12). V.K.M. was supported by grants from the US National Institutes of Health (GM077465 and GM097136). The financial support of Associazione Amici del Centro Dino Ferrari, University of Milan, the Telethon project GTB07001ER, the Eurobiobank project QLTR-2001-02769 and R.F. 02.187 Criobanca Automatizzata di Materiale Biologico to M.M. and M.S. are gratefully acknowledged.
Supplementary Note, Supplementary Tables 1–5 and Supplementary Figures 1–8
About this article
Nature Communications (2017)