BACKGROUND: Mitochondrial dysfunction is increasingly recognized as an important feature of multiple sclerosis (MS) pathology and may be relevant for clinical disease progression. However, it is unknown whether mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) levels in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) associate with disease progression and therapeutic response.
OBJECTIVES: To evaluate whether CSF concentrations of mtDNA in MS patients can serve as a marker of ongoing neuropathology and may be helpful to differentiate between MS disease subtypes. To explore the effect of disease-modifying therapies on mtDNA levels in the CSF.
METHODS: CSF mtDNA was measured using a digital polymerase chain reaction (PCR) CSF mtDNA in two independent MS cohorts. The cohorts included 92 relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) patients, 40 progressive multiple sclerosis (PMS) patients (27 secondary progressive and 13 primary progressive), 50 various neurologic disease controls, and 5 healthy controls.
RESULTS: Patients with PMS showed a significant increase in CSF mtDNA compared to non-inflammatory neurologic disease controls. Patients with higher T2 lesion volumes and lower normalized brain volumes showed increased concentration of mtDNA. Patients treated with fingolimod had significantly lower mtDNA copy levels at follow-up compared to baseline.
CONCLUSION: Our results showed a non-specific elevation of concentration of mtDNA in PMS patients. mtDNA concentrations respond to fingolimod and may be used to monitor biological effect of this treatment.