Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells Demonstrate Mitochondrial Damage Clearance during Sepsis

Bryan D. Kraft, Lingye Chen, Hagir B. Suliman, Claude A. Piantadosi, Karen E. Welty-Wolf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Objectives: Metabolic derangements in sepsis stem from mitochondrial injury and contribute significantly to organ failure and mortality; however, little is known about mitochondrial recovery in human sepsis. We sought to test markers of mitochondrial injury and recovery (mitochondrial biogenesis) noninvasively in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from patients with sepsis and correlate serial measurements with clinical outcomes. Design: Prospective case-control study. Setting: Academic Medical Center and Veterans Affairs Hospital. Patients: Uninfected control patients (n = 20) and septic ICU patients (n = 37). Interventions: Blood samples were collected once from control patients and serially with clinical data on days 1, 3, and 5 from septic patients. Gene products for HMOX1, NRF1, PPARGC1A, and TFAM, and mitochondrial DNA ND1 and D-loop were measured by quantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction. Proinflammatory cytokines were measured in plasma and neutrophil lysates. Measurements and Main Results: Median (interquartile range) Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II and Sequential Organ Failure Assessment scores were 21 (8) and 10 (4), respectively, and 90-day mortality was 19%. Transcript levels of all four genes in peripheral blood mononuclear cells were significantly reduced in septic patients on day 1 (p < 0.05), whereas mitochondrial DNA copy number fell and plasma D-loop increased (both p < 0.05), indicative of mitochondrial damage. D-loop content was directly proportional to tumor necrosis factor-α and high-mobility group protein B1 cytokine expression. By day 5, we observed transcriptional activation of mitochondrial biogenesis and restoration of mitochondrial DNA copy number (p < 0.05). Patients with early activation of mitochondrial biogenesis were ICU-free by 1 week. Conclusions: Our findings support data that sepsis-induced mitochondrial damage is reversed by activation of mitochondrial biogenesis and that gene transcripts measured noninvasively in peripheral blood mononuclear cells can serve as novel biomarkers of sepsis recovery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)651-658
Number of pages8
JournalCritical care medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2019


  • biomarkers
  • mitochondrial biogenesis
  • mononuclear leukocytes
  • sepsis


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