FGF21 outperforms GDF15 as a diagnostic biomarker of mitochondrial disease in children

Lisa G. Riley, Michael Nafisinia, Minal J. Menezes, Reta Nambiar, Andrew Williams, Elizabeth H. Barnes, Arthavan Selvanathan, Kate Lichkus, Drago Bratkovic, Joy Yaplito-Lee, Kaustuv Bhattacharya, Carolyn Ellaway, Maina Kava, Shanti Balasubramaniam, John Christodoulou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Web of Science)


Several studies have shown serum fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) and growth differentiation factor 15 (GDF15) levels are elevated in patients with mitochondrial disease (MD) where myopathy is a feature. In this study we investigated the utility of FGF21 and GDF15 as biomarkers for MD in a phenotypically and genotypically diverse pediatric cohort with suspected MD against a panel of healthy controls and non-mitochondrial disease controls with some overlapping clinical features. Serum was collected from 56 children with MD, 104 children with non-mitochondrial disease (27 neuromuscular, 26 cardiac, 21 hepatic, 30 renal) and 30 pediatric controls. Serum FGF21 and GDF15 concentrations were measured using ELISA, and their ability to detect MD was determined. Median FGF21 and GDF15 serum concentrations were elevated 17-fold and 3-fold respectively in pediatric MD patients compared to the healthy control group. Non-mitochondrial disease controls had elevated serum GDF15 concentrations while FGF21 concentrations were in the normal range. Elevation of GDF15 in a range of non-mitochondrial pediatric disorders limits its use as a MD biomarker. FGF21 was elevated in MD patients with a spectrum of clinical phenotypes, including those without myopathy. Serum FGF21 had an area under the receiver operating characteristic curve of 0.87, indicating good ability to discriminate between pediatric MD and healthy and non-mitochondrial disease controls. Triaging of pediatric MD patients by clinical phenotyping and serum FGF21 testing, followed by massively parallel sequencing, may enable more rapid diagnosis of pediatric MD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-71
Number of pages9
JournalMolecular Genetics and Metabolism
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


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