Objective: This study was undertaken to investigate thiol metabolism as a marker of oxidative stress and antioxidative defence capacity in a cohort of children with biochemically and/or genetically confirmed mitochondrial disease. Previous studies suggest that lower glutathione levels, which have been shown to further compromise mitochondrial function, may occur in these diseases. Better understanding of the pathogenesis of mitochondrial diseases is important in order to improve their treatment.
Methods: We studied plasma and erythrocyte glutathione and cysteine levels, the activities of erythrocyte glutathione peroxidase (GPx), glutathione reductase (GR), glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase G6PDH) and glutathione S-transferase (GST), as well as the levels of erythrocyte thiobarbituric acid-reactive species (TBA-RS) and protein carbonyls in 10 children with a biochemical and/or genetic diagnosis of mitochondrial disease and six controls.
Results: Levels of reduced cysteine (CYSH) as well as reduced to oxidised cysteine ratio were lower in plasma of patients with mitochondrial diseases (p = 0.008 and p = 0.02, respectively). Plasma levels of reduced glutathione (GSH) were low in patients with mitochondrial diseases, mostly below the detection limit. We did not detect significant differences in erythrocyte thiols or glutathione-related enzyme activities.
Conclusion: Plasma thiols and their redox state are altered in patients with mitochondrial diseases, suggesting an increase in oxidative stress and depletion of antioxidant supplies. If confirmed in further studies, this relative thiol deficiency could be an important factor in the pathophysiology of mitochondrial diseases.