Open Access Research article

Association of decreased mitochondrial DNA content with the progression of colorectal cancer

HaiHong Cui1, Ping Huang1, ZhiJing Wang1, YunXin Zhang1, ZhenHua Zhang1, Wei Xu1, XiaoPeng Wang1, Ying Han2 and XiaoMing Guo3*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Gastroenterology, 305 Hospital of PLA, Beijing, China

2 Department of Gastroenterology, Beijing Military General Hospital of PLA, Beijing, China

3 Department of Pathology, Institute of radiation medicine, Beijing, China

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BMC Cancer 2013, 13:110  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-13-110

Published: 12 March 2013



Experimental data suggest that mitochondria is involved in tumorigenesis. However, little is known about the qualitative and quantitative changes of mtDNA in colorectal cancer tissues. We therefore conducted possible correlations of the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) copy number in colorectal cancer (CRC) with clinical and pathological findings and CRC prognosis.


mtDNA copy numbers in CRC cancer tissue and adjacent non-cancerous tissue samples were measured using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction analyses from 60 patients admitted to our hospital. We examined the correlation of mtDNA copy numbers and clinicopathologic parameters of CRC patients. The correlation between mtDNA copy number and three-year survival was analyzed.


The mtDNA copy number was lower in CRC tissue compared with the corresponding non-cancerous colorectal tissue (mean: 108.60 ± 20.11 vs. 153.68 ± 25.72) and was significantly correlated with lymph-node metastasis. Patients with a lower mtDNA copy number tended to have lower 3-year survival than patients with a higher mtDNA copy number assessed by Kaplan–Meier curves, but the correlation was not significant (overall survival, 63.0 vs 83%).


These results suggest that a reduced copy number of mtDNA is correlated with malignant potential in CRC.

Colorectal cancer; Mitochondrial DNA; Copy number; Quantitative PCR; Prognosis