Alterations of plasma antioxidants and mitochondrial DNA mutation in hair follicles of smokers

Environ Mol Mutagen. 2002;40(3):168-74. doi: 10.1002/em.10105.


The effects of long-term smoking on mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) deletions in hair follicles were investigated in subjects with different antioxidant capacity. Twenty-two male smokers with a smoking index of greater than 5 pack-years and without any known systemic diseases were recruited for this study. Forty healthy nonsmoking males were included as controls. We found that the concentrations of ascorbate and alpha-tocopherol and the activities of glutathione S-transferase (GST) and glutathione peroxidase in blood plasma were significantly decreased in smokers. The levels of glutathione and protein thiols in whole blood and the incidence of a 4,977 bp deletion of mtDNA (dmtDNA) in hair follicles were significantly increased in smokers. A significantly higher incidence of the 4,977 bp dmtDNA was found in smokers with plasma GST activity less than 5.66 U/l (OR = 7.2, P = 0.020). Using multiple covariate ANOVA and logistic regression, we found that age and low plasma GST activity were the only two risk factors for the 4,977 bp dmtDNA. These results suggest that smoking depletes antioxidants and causes mtDNA deletions and that plasma GST may play an important role in the preservation of the mitochondrial genome in tissue cells of smokers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • Ascorbic Acid / blood
  • Case-Control Studies
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Gene Deletion
  • Glutathione Transferase / blood
  • Hair Follicle / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Regression Analysis
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Time Factors
  • alpha-Tocopherol / blood


  • Antioxidants
  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Glutathione Transferase
  • alpha-Tocopherol
  • Ascorbic Acid