Association of plasma mitochondrial DNA with COPD severity and progression in the SPIROMICS cohort

William Z. Zhang, Katherine L. Hoffman, Kristen T. Schiffer, Clara Oromendia, Michelle C. Rice, Igor Barjaktarevic, Stephen P. Peters, Nirupama Putcha, Russell P. Bowler, J. Michael Wells, David J. Couper, Wassim W. Labaki, Jeffrey L. Curtis, Meilan K. Han, Robert Paine, Prescott G. Woodruff, Gerard J. Criner, Nadia N. Hansel, Ivan Diaz, Karla V. BallmanKiichi Nakahira, Mary E. Choi, Fernando J. Martinez, Augustine M.K. Choi, Suzanne M. Cloonan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: There is a lack of mechanism-driven, clinically relevant biomarkers in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Mitochondrial dysfunction, a proposed disease mechanism in COPD, is associated with the release of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), but plasma cell-free mtDNA has not been previously examined prospectively for associations with clinical COPD measures. Methods: P-mtDNA, defined as copy number of mitochondrially-encoded NADH dehydrogenase-1 (MT-ND1) gene, was measured by real-time quantitative PCR in 700 plasma samples from participants enrolled in the Subpopulations and Intermediate Outcome Measures in COPD Study (SPIROMICS) cohort. Associations between p-mtDNA and clinical disease parameters were examined, adjusting for age, sex, smoking status, and for informative loss to follow-up. Results: P-mtDNA levels were higher in participants with mild or moderate COPD, compared to smokers without airflow obstruction, and to participants with severe COPD. Baseline increased p-mtDNA levels were associated with better CAT scores in female smokers without airflow obstruction and female participants with mild or moderate COPD on 1-year follow-up, but worse 6MWD in females with severe COPD. Higher p-mtDNA levels were associated with better 6MWD in male participants with severe COPD. These associations were no longer significant after adjusting for informative loss to follow-up. Conclusion: In this study, p-mtDNA levels associated with baseline COPD status but not future changes in clinical COPD measures after accounting for informative loss to follow-up. To better characterize mitochondrial dysfunction as a potential COPD endotype, these results should be confirmed and validated in future studies. Trial Registration: NCT01969344 (SPIROMICS)

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number126
JournalRespiratory Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 26 2021


  • COPD
  • Mitochondrial dysfunction
  • mtDNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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