Handb Clin Neurol. 2023;194:23-42. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-821751-1.00010-5.
Mitochondrial optic neuropathies have a leading role in the field of mitochondrial medicine ever since 1988, when the first mutation in mitochondrial DNA was associated with Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON). Autosomal dominant optic atrophy (DOA) was subsequently associated in 2000 with mutations in the nuclear DNA affecting the OPA1 gene. LHON and DOA are both characterized by selective neurodegeneration of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) triggered by mitochondrial dysfunction. This is centered on respiratory complex I impairment in LHON and defective mitochondrial dynamics in OPA1-related DOA, leading to distinct clinical phenotypes. LHON is a subacute, rapid, severe loss of central vision involving both eyes within weeks or months, with age of onset between 15 and 35 years old. DOA is a more slowly progressive optic neuropathy, usually apparent in early childhood. LHON is characterized by marked incomplete penetrance and a clear male predilection. The introduction of next-generation sequencing has greatly expanded the genetic causes for other rare forms of mitochondrial optic neuropathies, including recessive and X-linked, further emphasizing the exquisite sensitivity of RGCs to compromised mitochondrial function. All forms of mitochondrial optic neuropathies, including LHON and DOA, can manifest either as pure optic atrophy or as a more severe multisystemic syndrome. Mitochondrial optic neuropathies are currently at the forefront of a number of therapeutic programs, including gene therapy, with idebenone being the only approved drug for a mitochondrial disorder.