Mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress are likely involved in atherogenesis. Since the mitochondrial genome variation can alter functional activity of cells, it is necessary to assess the presence in atherosclerotic lesions of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) heteroplasmic mutations known to be associated with different pathological processes and ageing. In this study, mtDNA heteroplasmy and copy number (mtCN) were evaluated in the autopsy-derived samples of aortic intima differing by the type of atherosclerotic lesions. To detect mtDNA heteroplasmic variants, next generation sequencing was used, and mtCN measurement was performed by qPCR. It was shown that mtDNA heteroplasmic mutations are characteristic for particular areas of intimal tissue; in 83 intimal samples 55 heteroplasmic variants were found; mean minor allele frequencies level accounted for 0.09, with 12% mean heteroplasmy level. The mtCN variance measured in adjacent areas of intima was high, but atherosclerotic lesions and unaffected intima did not differ significantly in mtCN values. Basing on the ratio of minor and major nucleotide mtDNA variants, we can conclude that there exists the increase in the number of heteroplasmic mtDNA variants, which corresponds to the extent of atherosclerotic morphologic phenotype.
Keywords: atherosclerosis; fatty infiltration; fatty streaks; fibrous plaque; lipofibrous plaque; mitochondrial DNA copy number; mitochondrial DNA mutations; next generation sequencing; unaffected intima.