Our ability to track cellular dynamics in humans over time in vivo has been limited. Here, we demonstrate how somatic mutations in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) can be used to longitudinally track the dynamic output of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells in humans. Over the course of 3 years of blood sampling in a single individual, our analyses reveal somatic mtDNA sequence variation and evolution reminiscent of models of hematopoiesis established by genetic labeling approaches. Furthermore, we observe fluctuations in mutation heteroplasmy, coinciding with specific clinical events, such as infections, and further identify lineage-specific somatic mtDNA mutations in longitudinally sampled circulating blood cell subsets in individuals with leukemia. Collectively, these observations indicate the significant potential of using tracking of somatic mtDNA sequence variation as a broadly applicable approach to systematically assess hematopoietic clonal dynamics in human health and disease.
© 2019 by The American Society of Hematology.