Mitochondria and cytochrome components released into the plasma of severe COVID-19 and ICU acute respiratory distress syndrome patients

Zhuo Zhen Chen, Lloyd Johnson, Uriel Trahtemberg, Andrew Baker, Saaimatul Huq, Jaimie Dufresne, Peter Bowden, Ming Miao, Ja-An Ho, Cheng-Chih Hsu, Claudia C Dos Santos*, John G Marshall*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    9 Citations (Scopus)


    INTRODUCTION: Proteomic analysis of human plasma by LC-ESI-MS/MS has discovered a limited number of new cellular protein biomarkers that may be confirmed by independent biochemical methods. Analysis of COVID-19 plasma has indicated the re-purposing of known biomarkers that might be used as prognostic markers of COVID-19 infection. However, multiple molecular approaches have previously indicated that the SARS-COV2 infection cycle is linked to the biology of mitochondria and that the response to infections may involve the action of heme containing oxidative enzymes.

    METHODS: Human plasma from COVID-19 and ICU-ARDS was analyzed by classical analytical biochemistry techniques and classical frequency-based statistical approaches to look for prognostic markers of severe COVID-19 lung damage. Plasma proteins from COVID-19 and ICU-ARDS were identified and enumerated versus the controls of normal human plasma (NHP) by LC-ESI-MS/MS. The observation frequency of proteins detected in COVID-19 and ICU-ARDS patients were compared to normal human plasma, alongside random and noise MS/MS spectra controls, using the Chi Square (χ2) distribution.

    RESULTS: PCR showed the presence of MT-ND1 DNA in the plasma of COVID-19, ICU-ARDS, as well as normal human plasma. Mitochondrial proteins such as MRPL, L2HGDH, ATP, CYB, CYTB, CYP, NDUF and others, were increased in COVID-19 and ICU-ARDS plasma. The apparent activity of the cytochrome components were tested alongside NHP by dot blotting on PVDF against a purified cytochrome c standard preparation for H2O2 dependent reaction with luminol as measured by enhanced chemiluminescence (ECL) that showed increased activity in COVID-19 and ICU-ARDS patients.

    DISCUSSION: The results from PCR, LC-ESI-MS/MS of tryptic peptides, and cytochrome ECL assays confirmed that mitochondrial components were present in the plasma, in agreement with the established central role of the mitochondria in SARS-COV-2 biology. The cytochrome activity assay showed that there was the equivalent of at least nanogram amounts of cytochrome(s) in the plasma sample that should be clearly detectable by LC-ESI-MS/MS. The release of the luminol oxidase activity from cells into plasma forms the basis of a simple and rapid test for the severity of cell damage and lung injury in COVID-19 infection and ICU-ARDS.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)17
    JournalClinical Proteomics
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 8 Apr 2023


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