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J Infect Dis. 2005 Nov 15;192(10):1794-800. Epub 2005 Oct 12.

Mitochondrial DNA and RNA increase in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from HIV-1-infected patients randomized to receive stavudine-containing or stavudine-sparing combination therapy.

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International Antiviral Therapy Evaluation Center, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.



Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) has been suggested as a potential marker of mitochondrial toxicity associated with nucleoside analogue reverse-transcriptase inhibitor-containing therapy.


We quantified mtDNA and mitochondrial RNA (mtRNA) in PBMCs over the course of 48 weeks in 78 patients infected with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) who were randomly assigned to receive ritonavir-boosted indinavir and efavirenz with or without stavudine. Furthermore, we analyzed the association of mtDNA and mtRNA with clinical signs and symptoms and/or abnormalities in laboratory markers attributed to mitochondrial toxicity.


No statistically significant difference was found in mtDNA and mtRNA content over time between the 2 treatment arms. When arms were combined, both median mtDNA and mtRNA content showed statistically significant increases over the course of 48 weeks, from 206 to 278 copies/cell (P < .001) and from 154 to 288 copies/cell (P = .003), respectively. No statistically significant difference in mtDNA and mtRNA content was found between patients with and those without adverse events attributed to mitochondrial toxicity.


The observed increases in mtDNA and mtRNA content during the first year of treatment may represent a restorative trend resulting from suppression of HIV-1 infection, independent of the treatment used. Future studies should focus on well-defined mitochondrial toxicities and changes in these markers within the corresponding affected tissues simultaneously with those in PBMCs. Furthermore, with respect to studies of peripheral blood, mtDNA and mtRNA content in individual cell subtypes rather than in PBMCs may be better markers of toxicity and deserve further investigation.

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