Mitochondria provide the main source of energy for eukaryotic cells, oxidizing fatty acids and sugars to generate ATP. Mitochondrial fatty acid β‐oxidation (FAO) and oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) are two key pathways involved in this process.
Disruption of FAO can cause human disease, with patients commonly presenting with liver failure, hypoketotic glycaemia and rhabdomyolysis. However, patients with deficiencies in the FAO enzyme short‐chain enoyl‐CoA hydratase 1 (ECHS1) are typically diagnosed with Leigh syndrome, a lethal form of subacute necrotizing encephalomyelopathy that is normally associated with OXPHOS dysfunction.
Furthermore, some ECHS1‐deficient patients also exhibit secondary OXPHOS defects. This sequela of FAO disorders has long been thought to be caused by the accumulation of inhibitory fatty acid intermediates. However, new evidence suggests that the mechanisms involved are more complex, and that disruption of OXPHOS protein complex biogenesis and/or stability is also involved.
In this review, we examine the clinical, biochemical and genetic features of all ECHS1‐deficient patients described to date. In particular, we consider the secondary OXPHOS defects associated with ECHS1 deficiency and discuss their possible contribution to disease pathogenesis.
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