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Short report
COA7 (C1orf163/RESA1) mutations associated with mitochondrial leukoencephalopathy and cytochrome c oxidase deficiency
  1. Anabel Martinez Lyons1,
  2. Anna Ardissone2,
  3. Aurelio Reyes1,
  4. Alan J Robinson1,
  5. Isabella Moroni2,
  6. Daniele Ghezzi3,
  7. Erika Fernandez-Vizarra1,
  8. Massimo Zeviani1
  1. 1MRC-Mitochondrial Biology Unit, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, UK
  2. 2Department of Child Neurology, Milan, Italy
  3. 3Unit of Molecular Neurogenetics of the Fondazione Istituto Neurologico “Carlo Besta”, Milan, Italy
  1. Correspondence to Professor Massimo Zeviani and Dr. Erika Fernandez Vizarra, MRC Mitochondrial Biology Unit, Wellcome Trust/MRC Building, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 0XY, UK; mdz21{at}; emfvb2{at}


Background Assembly of cytochrome c oxidase (COX, complex IV, cIV), the terminal component of the mitochondrial respiratory chain, is assisted by several factors, most of which are conserved from yeast to humans. However, some of them, including COA7, are found in humans but not in yeast. COA7 is a 231aa-long mitochondrial protein present in animals, containing five Sel1-like tetratricopeptide repeat sequences, which are likely to interact with partner proteins.

Methods Whole exome sequencing was carried out on a 19 year old woman, affected by early onset, progressive severe ataxia and peripheral neuropathy, mild cognitive impairment and a cavitating leukodystrophy of the brain with spinal cord hypotrophy. Biochemical analysis of the mitochondrial respiratory chain revealed the presence of isolated deficiency of cytochrome c oxidase (COX) activity in skin fibroblasts and skeletal muscle. Mitochondrial localization studies were carried out in isolated mitochondria and mitoplasts from immortalized control human fibroblasts.

Results We found compound heterozygous mutations in COA7: a paternal c.410A>G, p.Y137C, and a maternal c.287+1G>T variants. Lentiviral-mediated expression of recombinant wild-type COA7 cDNA in the patient fibroblasts led to the recovery of the defect in COX activity and restoration of normal COX amount. In mitochondrial localization experiments, COA7 behaved as the soluble matrix protein Citrate Synthase.

Conclusions We report here the first patient carrying pathogenic mutations of COA7, causative of isolated COX deficiency and progressive neurological impairment. We also show that COA7 is a soluble protein localized to the matrix, rather than in the intermembrane space as previously suggested.

  • Neurology
  • Molecular genetics
  • mitochondrial disease
  • COX assembly
  • mitochondrial respiratory chaixn

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  • Contributors AM-L carried out most of the molecular biology and cell biology experiments as part of her PhD programme; AA and IM carried out the clinical follow up; AR carried out WES and part of the work on COA7 mitochondrial localisation; AJR provided bioinformatics management of the WES data; DG carried out the biochemical diagnosis and part of the molecular biology; EF-V and MZ organised the experimental set-up, collected the data and wrote the manuscript.

  • Funding Supported by Telethon-Italy grant GGP15041 (to DG); Telethon-Italy Network of Genetic Biobank grant GTB12001J; ERC advanced grant ERC FP7-322424 (to MZ). MRC QQR grant MC_UP_1002/1.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Ethical Committee of the Fondazione Istituto Neurologico ‘Carlo Besta’, Milan, Italy.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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