ARTICLE: Associations between circulating cell-free mitochondrial DNA, inflammatory markers, and cognitive and physical outcomes in community dwelling older adults
JOURNAL: Immun Ageing. 2023 May 23;20(1):24. doi: 10.1186/s12979-023-00342-y.
Background: Dementia and frailty are common age-related syndromes often linked to chronic inflammation. Identifying the biological factors and pathways that contribute to chronic inflammation is crucial for developing new therapeutic targets. Circulating cell-free mitochondrial DNA (ccf-mtDNA) has been proposed as an immune stimulator and potential predictor of mortality in acute illnesses. Dementia and frailty are both associated with mitochondrial dysfunction, impaired cellular energetics, and cell death. The size and abundance of ccf-mtDNA fragments may indicate the mechanism of cell death: long fragments typically result from necrosis, while short fragments arise from apoptosis. We hypothesize that increased levels of necrosis-associated long ccf-mtDNA fragments and inflammatory markers in serum are linked to declines in cognitive and physical function, as well as increased mortality risk.
Results: Our study of 672 community-dwelling older adults revealed that inflammatory markers (C-Reactive Protein, soluble tumor necrosis factor alpha, tumor necrosis factor alpha receptor 1 [sTNFR1], and interleukin-6 [IL-6]) positively correlated with ccf-mtDNA levels in serum. Although cross-sectional analysis revealed no significant associations between short and long ccf-mtDNA fragments, longitudinal analysis demonstrated a connection between higher long ccf-mtDNA fragments (necrosis-associated) and worsening composite gait scores over time. Additionally, increased mortality risk was observed only in individuals with elevated sTNFR1 levels.
Conclusion: In a community dwelling cohort of older adults, there are cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between ccf-mtDNA and sTNFR1 with impaired physical and cognitive function and increased hazard of death. This work suggests a role for long ccf-mtDNA as a blood-based marker predictive of future physical decline.
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