Increased mitochondrial function may render some cancers vulnerable to mitochondrial inhibitors. Since mitochondrial function is regulated partly by mitochondrial DNA copy number (mtDNAcn), accurate measurements of mtDNAcn could help reveal which cancers are driven by increased mitochondrial function and may be candidates for mitochondrial inhibition. However, prior studies have employed bulk macrodissections that fail to account for cell type–specific or tumor cell heterogeneity in mtDNAcn. These studies have often produced unclear results, particularly in prostate cancer. Herein, we developed a multiplex in situ method to spatially quantify cell type–specific mtDNAcn. We show that mtDNAcn is increased in luminal cells of high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (HGPIN), is increased in prostatic adenocarcinomas (PCa), and is further elevated in metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer. Increased PCa mtDNAcn was validated by 2 orthogonal methods and is accompanied by increases in mtRNAs and enzymatic activity. Mechanistically, MYC inhibition in prostate cancer cells decreases mtDNA replication and expression of several mtDNA replication genes, and MYC activation in the mouse prostate leads to increased mtDNA levels in the neoplastic prostate cells. Our in situ approach also revealed elevated mtDNAcn in precancerous lesions of the pancreas and colon/rectum, demonstrating generalization across cancer types using clinical tissue samples.


Jiayu Chen, Qizhi Zheng, Jessica L. Hicks, Levent Trabzonlu, Busra Ozbek, Tracy Jones, Ajay M. Vaghasia, Tatianna C. Larman, Rulin Wang, Mark C. Markowski, Sam R. Denmeade, Kenneth J. Pienta, Ralph H. Hruban, Emmanuel S. Antonarakis, Anuj Gupta, Chi V. Dang, Srinivasan Yegnasubramanian, Angelo M. De Marzo


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