Cell-free DNA (cfDNA) and cell-free mitochondrial DNA (cfmtDNA) as potential stress-related biomarkers

Chronic psychosocial stress makes sick, whereas physical stress is beneficial for both physical and mental health. We recently exposed 20 healthy young men to stress: Psychosocial stress using the TSST and physical stress on the treadmill. We found increases in cortisol as well as adrenaline and noradrenaline under both conditions. Interestingly, the amount of cell-free DNA (cfDNA) in plasma increased as well. The investigation of the corresponding DNA methylation pattern showed that they were secreted by different cells in the two conditions. Accordingly, cell-free DNA could represent a messenger substance that is selectively secreted in different stress situations. In that context it is noteworthy that we also found an increased amount of cell-free mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in the plasma after both conditions. Further research on this project is ongoing.

Associated Projects

In an attempt to harmonize methods for the quantification and qualification of cell-free mtDNA, together with our colleagues Martin Picard and Caroline Trumpff (Columbia University, NY - USA), we recently presented an overview on cell-free mtDNA under stress-related conditions and proposed protocols for improved and standardized analysis of cell-free mtDNA.