Introduction: Myopathy, encephalopathy, lactic acidosis, and stroke-like (MELAS) syndrome, a maternally inherited disorder that is among the most common mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) diseases, is usually associated with the m.3242A>G mutation of the mitochondrial tRNAleu gene. Very few data are available with respect to prenatal diagnosis of this serious disease. The rate of mutant versus wild-type mtDNA (heteroplasmy) in fetal DNA is indeed considered to be a poor indicator of postnatal outcome.
Materials and methods: Taking advantage of a novel semi-quantitative polymerase chain reaction test for m.3243A>G mutant load assessment, we carried out nine prenatal diagnoses in five unrelated women, using two different fetal tissues (chorionic villi v amniocytes) sampled at two or three different stages of pregnancy.
Results: Two of the five women, although not carrying m.3243A>G in blood or extra-blood tissues, were, however, considered at risk for transmission of the mutation, as they were closely related to MELAS-affected individuals. The absence of 3243A>G in the blood of first degree relatives was associated with no mutated mtDNA in the cardiovascular system (CVS) or amniocytes, and their three children are healthy, with a follow-up of 3 months–3 years. Among the six fetuses from the three carrier women, three were shown to be homoplasmic (0% mutant load), the remaining three being heteroplasmic, with a mutant load ranging from 23% to 63%. The fetal mutant load was fairly stable at two or three different stages of pregnancy in CVS and amniocytes. Although pregnancy was terminated in the case of the fetus with a 63% mutant load, all other children are healthy with a follow-up of 3 months–6 years.
Conclusion: These data suggest that a prenatal diagnosis for MELAS syndrome might be helpful for at-risk families.
- CVS, chorionic villous sampling
- MELAS, myopathy, encephalopathy, lactic acidosis, and stroke-like
- mtDNA, mitochondrial DNA
- PCR, polymerase chain reaction
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Published Online First 11 May 2006
Competing interests: None declared.