Racial differences in circulating mitochondria-derived peptides may contribute to prostate cancer health disparities

Prostate. 2022 Sep;82(13):1248-1257. doi: 10.1002/pros.24398. Epub 2022 Jul 5.


Introduction: The mitochondrial genome has small open reading frames (sORF) which produce measurable mitochondrial-derived peptides (MDPs), including humanin, SHLP2, and MOTS-c. Previously, among men undergoing prostate biopsy, we found higher serum SHLP2 was linked with lower prostate cancer (PC) risk in European American men (EAM), while null associations were found in African American men (AAM). Here, in different patients undergoing prostate biopsy, we tested the link between SHLP2, humanin and MOTS-c and PC risk by race.

Methods: Plasma SHLP2, humanin, and MOTS-c were measured in 198 men (50/49 EAM/AAM cases; 50/49 EAM/AAM controls) undergoing biopsy. Logistic and multinomial regression models tested associations between each MDP and PC diagnosis, low-grade (grade group, GG1) and high-grade (GG2-5). Models were adjusted for age, body mass index, digital rectal examination, and prostate specific antigen (PSA). We tested interactions between MDPs and race.

Results: Among controls, humanin was similar by race (p = 0.60), but both SHLP2 (p = 0.007) and MOTS-c (p = 0.026) were lower in AAM controls versus EAM controls. Among EAM, higher MDP values were associated with lower PC risk (all p ≤ 0.001), with null associations in AAM (all p-interactions ≤ 0.01). Similarly, higher MDP expression was associated with decreased risk of low- and high-grade PC in EAM (all p ≤ 0.005) with null associations in AAM.

Conclusions: Higher MDP levels were associated with lower PC risk in EAM but not AAM. Generally, AAM controls had lower MDP levels. These data support MDPs and mitochondrial dysfunction in PC, suggesting greater dysfunction in AAM may contribute to excess PC risk. Future larger studies are needed to confirm these results.

Keywords: disparities; mitochondrial dysfunction; mitochondrial genome; mitochondrial-derived peptides (MDPs); prostate cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Peptides / metabolism
  • Prostatic Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Race Factors
  • White People


  • Peptides