Plasma mitochondrial DNA - A novel DAMP in pediatric sepsis

Valentina Di Caro, Thomas D. Walko, R. Aaron Bola, John D. Hong, Diana Pang, Victor Hsue, Alicia K. Au, E. Scott Halstead, Joseph A. Carcillo, Robert S.B. Clark, Rajesh K. Aneja

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is a novel danger-associated molecular pattern that on its release into the extracellular milieu acts via toll-like receptor-9, a pattern recognition receptor of the immune system. We hypothesized that plasma mtDNA concentrations will be elevated in septic children, and these elevations are associated with an increase in the severity of illness. In a separate set of in vitro experiments, we test the hypothesis that exposing peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) to mtDNA activates the immune response and induces tumor necrosis factor (TNF) release. Children with sepsis/systemic inflammatory response syndrome or control groups were enrolled within 24h of admission to the pediatric intensive care unit. Mitochondrial gene cytochrome c oxidase 1 (COX1) concentrations were measured by real-time quantitative PCR in the DNA extracted from plasma. PBMCs were treated with mtDNA (10μg/mL) and supernatant TNF levels were measured. The median plasma mtDNA concentrations were significantly elevated in the septic patients as compared with the critically ill non-septic and healthy control patients [1.75E+05 (IQR 6.64E+04-3.67E+05) versus 5.73E+03 (IQR 3.90E+03-1.28E+04) and 6.64E+03 (IQR 5.22E+03-1.63E+04) copies/μL respectively]. The median concentrations of plasma mtDNA were significantly greater in patients with MOF as compared with patients without MOF (3.2E+05 (IQR 1.41E+05-1.08E+06) vs. 2.9E+04 (IQR 2.47E+04-5.43E+04) copies/μL). PBMCs treated with mtDNA demonstrated higher supernatant TNF levels as compared with control cells (6.5±1.8 vs. 3.5±0.5pg/mL, P>0.05). Our data suggest that plasma mtDNA is a novel danger-associated molecular pattern in pediatric sepsis and appears to be associated with MOF.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)506-511
Number of pages6
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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