We report three families presenting with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, lactic acidosis, and multiple defects of mitochondrial respiratory chain activities. By direct sequencing of the candidate gene MTO1, encoding the mitochondrial-tRNA modifier 1, or whole exome sequencing analysis, we identified novel missense mutations. All MTO1 mutations were predicted to be deleterious on MTO1 function. Their pathogenic role was experimentally validated in a recombinant yeast model, by assessing oxidative growth, respiratory activity, mitochondrial protein synthesis and complex IV activity. In one case, we also demonstrated that expression of wt MTO1 could rescue the respiratory defect in mutant fibroblasts. The severity of the yeast respiratory phenotypes partly correlated with the different clinical presentations observed in MTO1 mutant patients, although the clinical outcome was highly variable in patients with the same mutation and seemed also to depend on timely start of pharmacological treatment, centered on the control of lactic acidosis by dichloroacetate. Our results indicate that MTO1 mutations are commonly associated with a presentation of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, lactic acidosis and mitochondrial respiratory chain deficiency, and that ad hoc recombinant yeast models represent a useful system to test the pathogenic potential of uncommon variants, and provide insight into their effects on the expression of a biochemical phenotype.