Departmental Papers (BE)

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version


Publication Source






Start Page






Traumatic brain injury (TBI) has been shown to activate the peripheral innate immune system and systemic inflammatory response, possibly through the central release of damage associated molecular patterns (DAMPs). Our main purpose was to gain an initial understanding of the peripheral mitochondrial response following TBI, and how this response could be utilized to determine cerebral mitochondrial bioenergetics. We hypothesized that TBI would increase peripheral whole blood relative mtDNA copy number, and that these alterations would be associated with cerebral mitochondrial bioenergetics triggered by TBI.


Blood samples were obtained before, 6 h after, and 25 h after focal (controlled cortical impact injury: CCI) and diffuse (rapid non-impact rotational injury: RNR) TBI. PCR primers, unique to mtDNA, were identified by aligning segments of nuclear DNA (nDNA) to mtDNA, normalizing values to nuclear 16S rRNA, for a relative mtDNA copy number. Three unique mtDNA regions were selected, and PCR primers were designed within those regions, limited to 25-30 base pairs to further ensure sequence specificity, and measured utilizing qRT-PCR.


Mean relative mtDNA copy numbers increased significantly at 6 and 25 hrs after following both focal and diffuse traumatic brain injury. Specifically, the mean relative mtDNA copy number from three mitochondrial-specific regions pre-injury was 0.84 ± 0.05. At 6 and 25 h after diffuse non-impact TBI, mean mtDNA copy number was significantly higher: 2.07 ± 0.19 (P < 0.0001) and 2.37 ± 0.42 (P < 0.001), respectively. Following focal impact TBI, relative mtDNA copy number was also significantly higher, 1.35 ± 0.12 (P < 0.0001) at 25 hours. Alterations in mitochondrial respiration in the hippocampus and cortex post-TBI correlated with changes in the relative mtDNA copy number measured in peripheral blood.


Alterations in peripheral blood relative mtDNA copy numbers may be a novel biosignature of cerebral mitochondrial bioenergetics with exciting translational potential for non-invasive diagnostic and interventional studies.

Copyright/Permission Statement

© 2015 Kilbaugh et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited



Date Posted: 25 May 2016

This document has been peer reviewed.