Very Short Mitochondrial DNA Fragments and Heteroplasmy in Human Plasma

Ruoyu Zhang, Kiichi Nakahira, Xiaoxian Guo, Augustine M.K. Choi, Zhenglong Gu

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44 Scopus citations


Cell free DNA (cfDNA) has received increasing attention and has been studied in a broad range of clinical conditions. However, few studies have focused on mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in the cell free form. We optimized DNA isolation and sequencing library preparation protocols to better retain short DNA fragments from plasma, and applied these optimized methods to plasma samples from patients with sepsis. Our methods can retain substantially shorter DNA, resulting in an average of 11.5 fold increase in short DNA fragments yield (DNA <100bp). We report that cf-mtDNA in plasma is highly enriched in short-size cfDNA (30~60 bp). Motivated by this unique size distribution, we size-selected short cfDNA, which further increased the mtDNA recovery rate by an average of 10.4 fold. We then detected mtDNA heteroplasmy in plasma from 3 patients. In one patient who previously received bone marrow transplantation, different minor allele frequencies were observed between plasma and leukocytes at heteroplasmic sites, consistent with mixed-tissue origin for cfDNA. For the other two patients, the heteroplasmy pattern is also different between plasma and leukocyte. Our study shed new lights into the architecture of the cfDNA, and mtDNA heteroplasmy identified in plasma provides new potential for biomarker discovery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number36097
JournalScientific Reports
StatePublished - Nov 4 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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