Impaired mitochondrial activity has been linked to increased risk for clinical complications after injury. Furthermore, variant mitochondrial alleles have been identified and are thought to result in decreased mitochondrial activity. These include a nonsynonymous mitochondrial polymorphism (T4216C) in the nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide dehydrogenase 1 gene (ND1), encoding a key member of complex I within the electron transport chain, which is found almost exclusively among Caucasians. We hypothesized that burn patients carrying ND1 4216C are less able to generate the cellular energy necessary for an effective immune response and are at increased risk for infectious complications. The association between 4216C and outcome after burn injury was evaluated in a cohort of 175 Caucasian patients admitted to the Parkland Hospital with burns covering greater than or equal to 15% of their total body surface area or greater than or equal to 5% full-thickness burns under an institutional review board-approved protocol. To remove confounding unrelated to burn injury, individuals were excluded if they presented with significant non-burn-related trauma (Injury Severity Score > or =16), traumatic or anoxic brain injury, spinal cord injury, were HIV/AIDS positive, had active malignancy, or survived less than 48 h postadmission. Within this cohort of patients, carriage of the 4216C allele was significantly associated by unadjusted analysis with increased risk for sepsis-related organ dysfunction or septic shock (P = 0.011). After adjustment for full-thickness burn size, inhalation injury, age, and sex, carriage of the 4216C allele was associated with complicated sepsis (adjusted odds ratio = 3.7; 95% confidence interval, 1.5-9.1; P = 0.005), relative to carriers of the T allele.