Mitochondrial complex II, or succinate dehydrogenase, is a key enzymatic complex involved in both the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle and oxidative phosphorylation as part of the mitochondrial respiratory chain. Germline succinate dehydrogenase subunit A (SDHA) mutations have been reported in a few patients with a classical mitochondrial neurodegenerative disease. Mutations in the genes encoding the three other succinate dehydrogenase subunits (SDHB, SDHC and SDHD) have been identified in patients affected by familial or ‘apparently sporadic’ paraganglioma and/or pheochromocytoma, an autosomal inherited cancer-susceptibility syndrome. These discoveries have dramatically changed the work-up and genetic counseling of patients and families with paragangliomas and/or pheochromocytomas. The subsequent identification of germline mutations in the gene encoding fumarase – another TCA cycle enzyme – in a new hereditary form of susceptibility to renal, uterine and cutaneous tumors has highlighted the potential role of the TCA cycle and, more generally, of the mitochondria in cancer.

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