Somatic mutations throughout the entire mitochondrial genome are associated with elevated PSA levels in prostate cancer patients

Am J Hum Genet. 2010 Dec 10;87(6):802-12. doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2010.11.001.


The genetic etiology of prostate cancer, the most common form of male cancer in western countries, is complex and the interplay of disease genes with environmental factors is far from being understood. Studies on somatic mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutations have become an important aspect of cancer research because these mutations might have functional consequences and/or might serve as biosensors for tumor detection and progression. We sequenced the entire mitochondrial genome (16,569 bp) from 30 prospectively collected pairs of macrodissected cancerous and benign cells from prostate cancer patients and compared their genetic variability. Given recent concerns regarding the authenticity of newly discovered mtDNA mutations, we implemented a high-quality procedure for mtDNA whole-genome sequencing. In addition, the mitochondrial genes MT-CO2, MT-CO3, MT-ATP6, and MT-ND6 were sequenced in further 35 paired samples from prostate cancer patients. We identified a total of 41 somatic mutations in 22 out of 30 patients: the majority of these mutations have not previously been observed in the human phylogeny. The presence of somatic mutations in transfer RNAs (tRNAs) was found to be associated with elevated PSA levels (14.25 ± 5.44 versus 7.15 ± 4.32 ng/ml; p = 0.004). The level and degree of heteroplasmy increased with increasing tumor activity. In summary, somatic mutations in the mitochondrial genome are frequent events in prostate cancer. Mutations mapping to mitochondrial tRNAs, ribosomal RNAs, and protein coding genes might impair processes that occur within the mitochondrial compartment (e.g., transcription, RNA processing, and translation) and might finally affect oxidative phosphorylation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mutation*
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Phylogeny
  • Prospective Studies
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen / blood*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / genetics*
  • RNA, Transfer / chemistry
  • RNA, Transfer / genetics


  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • RNA, Transfer
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen