Open Access Open Badges Research article

Lymphocyte respiration in children with Trisomy 21

Elhadi H Aburawi* and Abdul-Kader Souid

Author Affiliations

Department of Pediatrics, UAE University, P.O. Box 17666, Al Ain, United Arab Emirates

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BMC Pediatrics 2012, 12:193  doi:10.1186/1471-2431-12-193

Published: 18 December 2012



This study measured lymphocyte mitochondrial O2 consumption (cellular respiration) in children with trisomy 21.


Peripheral blood mononuclear cells were isolated from whole blood of trisomy 21 and control children and these cells were immediately used to measure cellular respiration rate. [O2] was determined as a function of time from the phosphorescence decay rates (1/τ) of Pd (II)-meso-tetra-(4-sulfonatophenyl)-tetrabenzoporphyrin. In sealed vials containing lymphocytes and glucose as a respiratory substrate, [O2] declined linearly with time, confirming the zero-order kinetics of O2 conversion to H2O by cytochrome oxidase. The rate of respiration (k, in μM O2 min-1), thus, was the negative of the slope of [O2] vs. time. Cyanide inhibited O2 consumption, confirming that oxidation occurred in the mitochondrial respiratory chain.


For control children (age = 8.8 ± 5.6 years, n = 26), the mean (± SD) value of kc (in μM O2 per min per 107 cells) was 1.36 ± 0.79 (coefficient of variation, Cv = 58%; median = 1.17; range = 0.60 to 3.12; -2SD = 0.61). For children with trisomy 21 (age = 7.2 ± 4.6 years, n = 26), the values of kc were 0.82 ± 0.62 (Cv = 76%; median = 0.60; range = 0.20 to 2.80), p<0.001. Similar results (p<0.000) were obtained after excluding the five trisomy 21 children with elevated serum TSH (values >6.1 mU/L). Fourteen of 26 (54%) children with trisomy 21 had kc values of 0.20 to 0.60 (i.e., <−2SD). The values of kc positively correlated with body-mass index (BMI, R >0.302), serum creatinine (R >0.507), blood urea nitrogen (BUN, R >0.535) and albumin (R >0.446).


Children with trisomy 21 in this study have reduced lymphocyte bioenergetics. The clinical importance of this finding requires further studies.

Oxygen; Respiration; Mitochondria; Trisomy 21; Hypothyroidism