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Diabetologia. 2008 Aug;51(8):1440-3. doi: 10.1007/s00125-008-1054-4. Epub 2008 Jun 5.

Age-related decline in mitochondrial DNA copy number in isolated human pancreatic islets.

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Mitochondrial Research Group, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.



Pancreatic beta cell function has been shown to decline with age in man. Depletion of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) copy number is associated with impaired insulin secretion in pancreatic beta cell lines, and decreased mtDNA copy number has been observed with age in skeletal muscle in man. We investigated whether mtDNA copy number decreases with age in human pancreatic beta cells, which might in turn contribute to the age-related decline in insulin secretory capacity.


We quantified mtDNA copy number in isolated human islet preparations from 15 pancreas donors aged between 17 and 75 years. Islets (n = 20) were individually hand-picked and pooled from each donor isolate for the quantification of mtDNA copy number and deleted mtDNA (%), which were determined using real-time PCR methods.


There was a significant negative correlation between mtDNA copy number and islet donor age (r = -0.53, p = 0.044). mtDNA copy number was significantly decreased in islet preparations from donors aged > or =50 years (n = 8) compared with those aged <50 years (n = 7) (median [interquartile range]: 418 [236-503] vs 596 [554-729] mtDNA copy number/diploid genome; p = 0.032). None of the islet preparations harboured high levels of deleted mtDNA affecting the major arc.


Given the correlation between mtDNA content and respiratory chain activity, the age-related decrease in mtDNA copy number that we observed in human pancreatic islet preparations may contribute to the age-dependent decline in pancreatic beta cell insulin secretory capacity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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