Platelet mitochondrial DNA methylation predicts future cardiovascular outcome in adults with overweight and obesity

Sarah Corsi, Simona Iodice, Luisella Vigna, Akin Cayir, John C. Mathers, Valentina Bollati, Hyang Min Byun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The association between obesity and cardiovascular disease (CVD) is proven, but why some adults with obesity develop CVD while others remain disease-free is poorly understood. Here, we investigated whether mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) methylation in platelets is altered prior to CVD development in a population of adults with overweight and obesity. Methods: We devised a nested case-control study of 200 adults with overweight or obesity who were CVD-free at baseline, of whom 84 developed CVD within 5 years, while 116 remained CVD-free. Platelet mtDNA was isolated from plasma samples at baseline, and mtDNA methylation was quantified in mitochondrially encoded cytochrome-C-oxidase I (MT-CO1; nt6797 and nt6807), II (MT-CO2; nt8113 and nt8117), and III (MT-CO3; nt9444 and nt9449); tRNA leucine 1 (MT-TL1; nt3247 and nt3254); D-loop (nt16383); tRNA phenylalanine (MT-TF; nt624); and light-strand-origin-of-replication (MT-OLR; nt5737, nt5740, and nt5743) by bisulfite-pyrosequencing. Logistic regression was used to estimate the contribution of mtDNA methylation to future CVD risk. ROC curve analysis was used to identify the optimal mtDNA methylation threshold for future CVD risk prediction. A model was generated incorporating methylation at three loci (score 0, 1, or 2 according to 0, 1, or 2-3 hypermethylated loci, respectively), adjusted for potential confounders, such as diastolic and systolic blood pressure, fasting blood glucose, and cholesterol ratio. mtDNA methylation at MT-CO1 nt6807 (OR = 1.08, 95% CI 1.02-1.16; P = 0.014), MT-CO3 nt9444 (OR = 1.22, 95% CI 1.02-1.46, P = 0.042), and MT-TL1 nt3254 (OR = 1.30, 95% CI 1.05-1.61, P = 0.008) was higher at baseline in those who developed CVD by follow-up, compared with those who remained CVD-free. Combined use of the three loci significantly enhanced risk prediction, with hazard ratios of 1.38 (95% CI 0.68-2.78) and 2.68 (95% CI 1.41-5.08) for individuals with score 1 or 2, respectively (P = 0.003). Methylation at these sites was independent of conventional CVD risk factors, including inflammation markers, fasting blood glucose concentration, and blood pressure. Conclusions: Methylations of MT-CO1, MT-CO3, and MT-TL1 are, together, strong predictors of future CVD incidence. Since methylation of these mtDNA domains was independent of conventional CVD risk factors, these markers may represent a novel intrinsic predictor of CVD risk in adults with overweight and obesity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number29
JournalClinical Epigenetics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 17 2020


  • CVD
  • DNA methylation
  • mtDNA
  • Obesity
  • Platelets

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Developmental Biology
  • Genetics(clinical)


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