Down syndrome (DS) consists of a complex phenotype with constant features, such as mental retardation and hypotonia, and variable features, including heart defects and susceptibility to Alzheimer’s disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and immune disorders. Overexpression of genes mapping to chromosome 21 (Hsa21) is directly or indirectly responsible for pathogenesis of DS phenotypic features, as overexpressed Hsa21 genes dysregulate several other genes mapping to different chromosomes. Many of these genes are involved in mitochondrial function. Recent studies highlight a link between mitochondrial dysfunction, consistently observed in DS subjects, and DS phenotype. In this review, we first provide a basic overview of mitochondrial alterations in DS in terms of mitochondrial bioenergetics, biogenesis and morphology. We then discuss how mitochondrial malfunction may contribute to the pathogenesis of clinical manifestations and how specific Hsa21 genes may cause the disruption of mitochondrial phenotype. Finally, we focus on drugs, which affect mitochondrial function and network to propose possible therapeutic approaches aimed at improving and/or preventing various aspects of the DS phenotype. Our working hypothesis is that correcting the mitochondrial defect might improve the neurological phenotype and prevent DS-associated pathologies, thus providing a better quality of life for DS individuals and their families.
Part of the book: Advances in Research on Down Syndrome