We have recently reported an A to G transition at nucleotide position 3243 in the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) tRNALeu(UUR)) gene in a large family with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM). Characteristic was its maternal transmission and an associated sensorineural hearing loss. In a screening of a Dutch and French NIDDM population for the presence of the tRNALeu(UUR)) mutation we identified two new pedigrees in which NIDDM is present in combination with deafness. The mode of inheritance agrees with a maternal one. This result shows that patients with a phenotype of NIDDM and deafness can be identified within groups of NIDDM patients based on the tRNALeu(UUR)) mutation. The same mutation has also been linked to the syndrome of mitochondrial myopathy, encephalopathy, lactic acidosis, and stroke-like episodes (MELAS). How the same mutation can give rise to different clinical phenotypes is not clear. We obtained the complete mtDNA sequence from our initial pedigree and identified a number of additional mutations that could confer the phenotype of the tRNA(Leu(UUR)) mutation to diabetes. We examined the presence of these additional, potentially pathogenic mutations in the mtDNA from the two new pedigrees and from a previously described British pedigree. The absence of these mutations in all three pedigrees shows that the tRNALeu(UUR)) mutation alone associates with the phenotype of NIDDM and deafness. We conclude that maternally inherited diabetes and deafness is a distinct subtype of diabetes that is associated with a single mitochondrial tRNALeu(UUR) mutation. We propose the abbreviation MIDD for this particular subtype.

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