Volume 49, Issue 6 (November 2004)
Common Mitochondrial DNA Deletion Associated With Sudden Natural Death in Adults
One of the most frequent causes of death in developed countries is sudden natural death (SND), which is the most common indication for medico-legal autopsies. Cardiac diseases are frequently detected among SND. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is easily damaged by reactive oxygen species, and it may cause dysfunction in tissues, leading to early events in cardiovascular disease. A specific mtDNA deletion of 4977 bp is associated to aging, myocardial dysfunction, and bioenergetic deficit. The potential link between mtDNA damage and SND has not been investigated before. Our aim was to evaluate the accumulation of the common mtDNA4977-deletion in cardiac muscle samples from autopsies of SND in adults (n = 14) in comparison to control samples from unnatural deaths (n = 12). Serial dilution-polymerase chain reaction method was performed to estimate the proportion of the total mtDNA harboring the mtDNA4977-deletion. Coefficient variation intra-assay was 8%, and inter-assay was 12%. MtDNA4977-deletion percentage was higher in samples obtained from victims of SND than in those from subjects who died of unnatural causes (p < 0.05). No differences in mtDNA4977-deletion were found between SND victims 39–51 years old, and no correlation was found between these samples and age, r = 0.30, p = 0.29 while it was significant among control samples, r = 0.68, p < 0.05. The association between mtDNA4977 deletion with SND victims might offer a tool to provide additional information to clarify complex SND investigations.