Multi-omics identifies large mitoribosomal subunit instability caused by pathogenic MRPL39 variants as a cause of pediatric onset mitochondrial disease

Sumudu S C Amarasekera, Daniella H Hock, Nicole J Lake, Sarah E Calvo, Sabine W Grønborg, Emma I Krzesinski, David J Amor, Michael C Fahey, Cas Simons, Flemming Wibrand, Vamsi K Mootha, Monkol Lek, Sebastian Lunke, Zornitza Stark, Elsebet Østergaard, John Christodoulou, David R Thorburn, David A Stroud*, Alison G Compton*

*Corresponding author for this work
2 Citations (Scopus)


MRPL39 encodes one of 52 proteins comprising the large subunit of the mitochondrial ribosome (mitoribosome). In conjunction with 30 proteins in the small subunit, the mitoribosome synthesizes the 13 subunits of the mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) system encoded by mitochondrial Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). We used multi-omics and gene matching to identify three unrelated individuals with biallelic variants in MRPL39 presenting with multisystem diseases with severity ranging from lethal, infantile-onset (Leigh syndrome spectrum) to milder with survival into adulthood. Clinical exome sequencing of known disease genes failed to diagnose these patients; however quantitative proteomics identified a specific decrease in the abundance of large but not small mitoribosomal subunits in fibroblasts from the two patients with severe phenotype. Re-analysis of exome sequencing led to the identification of candidate single heterozygous variants in mitoribosomal genes MRPL39 (both patients) and MRPL15. Genome sequencing identified a shared deep intronic MRPL39 variant predicted to generate a cryptic exon, with transcriptomics and targeted studies providing further functional evidence for causation. The patient with the milder disease was homozygous for a missense variant identified through trio exome sequencing. Our study highlights the utility of quantitative proteomics in detecting protein signatures and in characterizing gene-disease associations in exome-unsolved patients. We describe Relative Complex Abundance analysis of proteomics data, a sensitive method that can identify defects in OXPHOS disorders to a similar or greater sensitivity to the traditional enzymology. Relative Complex Abundance has potential utility for functional validation or prioritization in many hundreds of inherited rare diseases where protein complex assembly is disrupted.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHuman Molecular Genetics
Issue number15
Pages (from-to)2441-2454
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jul 2023


  • DNA, Mitochondrial/genetics
  • Humans
  • Leigh Disease/genetics
  • Mitochondria/genetics
  • Mitochondrial Diseases/pathology
  • Mitochondrial Proteins/genetics
  • Multiomics
  • Mutation
  • Ribosomal Proteins/genetics


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