Background: Patients with peripheral arterial disease (PAD) have exercise limitation due to claudication-limited pain and metabolic alterations in skeletal muscle. PAD is also associated with oxidative stress, which is a known cause of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) injury. The present study was designed to test the hypothesis that PAD is associated with mtDNA injury, as reflected by an increased frequency of a specific 4977-base pair (bp) mtDNA deletion mutation.
Methods and results: The deletion frequency was quantified in gastrocnemius muscle of 8 patients with unilateral PAD and 10 age-matched control subjects with the use of polymerase chain reaction methodologies. Muscle from the hemodynamically unaffected (less affected) PAD limb showed an 8-fold increased deletion frequency and the hemodynamically affected (worse affected) PAD limb had a 17-fold increased deletion frequency compared with muscle from control subjects. The frequency of the 4977-bp deletion in the worse-affected limb was positively correlated with the age of the patients but not the claudication-limited exercise performance of the patients. Total mtDNA content, citrate synthase activity, and cytochrome c oxidase activity were not different in the muscle from the 3 limb populations. However, the ratio of citrate synthase to cytochrome c oxidase was higher in the worse- versus less-affected limbs of PAD patients.
Conclusions: The present study demonstrates a large increase in the frequency of the mtDNA 4977-bp deletion in patients with PAD but in a distribution not limited to the hemodynamically affected limb.