Objective: To investigate the impact of antiretroviral treatment on the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) content of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from HIV-1-infected patients.
Design: As absolute mtDNA copy numbers widely differ between individuals, we performed a longitudinal analysis where the patient's first historical specimen was obtained as a baseline reference for relative comparison with subsequent samples from that patient.
Methods: mtDNA and nuclear DNA quantitation per cell ([beta]-globin gene copies) were both measured by real-time polymerase chain reaction analysis of whole DNA extracts of 361 serial live-cryopreserved PBMCs collected in former trials and clinical follow-ups from 60 individuals with established or recently acquired HIV-1 infections before and during administration of various antiviral combination therapies.
Results: mtDNA amounts were stable or increasing over years of natural HIV-1 infection in untreated patients (n = 7), consistent with our finding of a lack of differences in mtDNA copy numbers in patients with either a long established or recent lentivirus infection. Our quantitation system revealed significant changes in mtDNA copy number depending on the designated triple, quadruple, or quintuple anti-HIV drug combinations. Zidovudine + zalcitabine + ritonavir and zidovudine + lamivudine + didanosine regularly lead to mtDNA depletion in each of the treated patients, whereas none of 7 patients (and 35 cell specimens) receiving a stavudine + lamivudine + indinavir combination had any significant mtDNA content variations. In 7 patients, mtDNA copy numbers returned to pretreatment levels and/or higher levels without any interruption of the previously mtDNA-depleting antiretroviral drug combination.
Conclusion: Our assay system allowed the detection of significant changes in the mtDNA content of PBMCs from HIV-1-infected patients taking antiretroviral drugs, as has been reported in the literature with other detection systems. Yet, mtDNA copy numbers regularly diminished during administration of some but not all nucleoside analog-containing combinations. This, plus the occasional finding that depleted mtDNA contents spontaneously increased to baseline levels and/or higher levels during uninterrupted treatment, should raise a note of caution about resorting to the PBMC mtDNA marker for monitoring of antiretroviral drug-related mitochondrial toxicities.
(C) 2003 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.