Systemic Evidence for Mitochondrial Dysfunction in Age-Related Macular Degeneration as Revealed by mtDNA Copy Number Measurements in Peripheral Blood

Int J Mol Sci. 2023 Nov 16;24(22):16406. doi: 10.3390/ijms242216406.


Mitochondrial dysfunction is a common occurrence in the aging process and is observed in diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Increased levels of reactive oxygen species lead to damaged mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), resulting in dysfunctional mitochondria, and, consequently, mtDNA causes further harm in the retinal tissue. However, it is unclear whether the effects are locally restricted to the high-energy-demanding retinal pigment epithelium or are also systematically present. Therefore, we measured mtDNA copy number (mtDNA-CN) in peripheral blood using a qPCR approach with plasmid normalization in elderly participants with and without AMD from the AugUR study (n = 2262). We found significantly lower mtDNA-CN in the blood of participants with early (n = 453) and late (n = 170) AMD compared to AMD-free participants (n = 1630). In regression analyses, we found lower mtDNA-CN to be associated with late AMD when compared with AMD-free participants. Each reduction of mtDNA-CN by one standard deviation increased the risk for late AMD by 24%. This association was most pronounced in geographic atrophy (OR = 1.76, 95% CI 1.19-2.60, p = 0.004), which has limited treatment options. These findings provide new insights into the relationship between mtDNA-CN in blood and AMD, suggesting that it may serve as a more accessible biomarker than mtDNA-CN in the retina.

PMID:38003595 | DOI:10.3390/ijms242216406