Background: Qualitative and quantitative changes in human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) have been implicated in various cancer types. A 4,977 bp deletion in the major arch of the mitochondrial genome is one of the most common mutations associated with a variety of human diseases and aging.Methods: We conducted a comprehensive study on clinical features and mtDNA of 104 colorectal cancer patients in the Wenzhou area of China. In particular, using a quantitative real time PCR method, we analyzed the 4,977 bp deletion and mtDNA content in tumor tissues and paired non-tumor areas from these patients.Results: We found that the 4,977 bp deletion was more likely to be present in patients of younger age (≤65 years, p = 0.027). In patients with the 4,977 bp deletion, the deletion level decreased as the cancer stage advanced (p = 0.031). Moreover, mtDNA copy number in tumor tissues of patients with this deletion increased, both compared with that in adjacent non-tumor tissues and with in tumors of patients without the deletion. Such mtDNA content increase correlated with the levels of the 4,977 bp deletion and with cancer stage (p < 0.001).Conclusions: Our study indicates that the mtDNA 4,977 bp deletion may play a role in the early stage of colorectal cancer, and it is also implicated in alteration of mtDNA content in cancer cells.
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