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Reversible infantile respiratory chain deficiency (RIRCD) is a rare mitochondrial myopathy leading to severe metabolic disturbances in infants, which recover spontaneously after 6 months of age. RIRCD is associated with the homoplasmic m.14674T>C mitochondrial DNA mutation, however only [~]1/100 carriers develop the disease. We studied 27 affected and 15 unaffected individuals from 19 families and found additional heterozygous mutations in nuclear genes interacting with mt-tRNAGlu including EARS2 and TRMU in the majority of affected individuals, but not in healthy carriers of m.14674T>C, supporting a digenic inheritance. The spontaneous recovery in infants with digenic mutations is modulated by changes in amino acid availability in a multi-step process. First, the integrated stress-response associated with increased FGF21 and GDF15 expression enhances catabolism via {beta}-oxidation and the TCA cycle increasing the availability of amino acids. In the second phase mitochondrial biogenesis increases via mTOR activation, leading to improved mitochondrial translation and recovery. Similar mechanisms may explain the variable penetrance and tissue specificity of other mtDNA mutations and highlight the potential role of amino acids in improving mitochondrial disease.

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