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Association between a common mitochondrial DNA D-loop polycytosine variant and alteration of mitochondrial copy number in human peripheral blood cells


Background A T-to-C transition at mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) nucleotide position 16189 can generate a variable length polycytosine tract (poly-C). This tract variance has been associated with disease. A suggested pathogenesis is that it interferes with the replication process of mtDNA, which in turn decreases the mtDNA copy number and generates disease.

Methods In this study, 837 healthy adults' blood samples were collected and determined for their mtDNA D-loop sequence. The mtDNA copy number in the leucocytes and serum levels of oxidative thiobarbituric acid reactive substance (TBARS) and antioxidative thiols were measured. All subjects were then categorised into three groups: wild type or variant mtDNA with presence of an interrupted/uninterrupted poly-C at 16180–16195 segment.

Results A step-wise multiple linear regression analysis identified factors affecting expression of mtDNA copy number including TBARS, thiols, age, body mass index and the mtDNA poly-C variant. Subjects harbouring a variant uninterrupted poly-C showed lowest mean (SD) mtDNA copy number (330 (178)), whereas an increased copy number was noted in subjects harbouring variant, interrupted poly-C (420 (273)) in comparison with wild type (358 (215)). The difference between the three groups and between the uninterrupted poly-C and the composite data from the interrupted poly-C and wild type remained consistent after adjustment for TBARS, thiols, age and body mass index (p=0.001 and p=0.011, respectively). A trend for decreased mtDNA copy number in association with increased number of continuous cytosine within the 16180–16195 segment was noted (ptrend<0.006).

Conclusions Our results substantiate a previous suggestion that the mtDNA 16189 variant can cause alteration of mtDNA copy number in human blood cells.

  • Mitochondrial DNA
  • D-loop variant
  • copy number
  • oxidative stress marker
  • clinical genetics
  • molecular genetics

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