Circulating DNA in plasma consists of short DNA fragments. The biological processes generating such fragments are not well understood. DNASE1L3 is a secreted DNASE1-like nuclease capable of digesting DNA in chromatin, and its absence causes anti-DNA responses and autoimmunity in humans and mice. We found that the deletion of Dnase1l3 in mice resulted in aberrations in the fragmentation of plasma DNA. Such aberrations included an increase in short DNA molecules below 120 bp, which was positively correlated with anti-DNA antibody levels. We also observed an increase in long, multinucleosomal DNA molecules and decreased frequencies of the most common end motifs found in plasma DNA. These aberrations were independent of anti-DNA response, suggesting that they represented a primary effect of DNASE1L3 loss. Pregnant Dnase1l3-/- mice carrying Dnase1l3+/- fetuses showed a partial restoration of normal frequencies of plasma DNA end motifs, suggesting that DNASE1L3 from Dnase1l3-proficient fetuses could enter maternal systemic circulation and affect both fetal and maternal DNA fragmentation in a systemic as well as local manner. However, the observed shortening of circulating fetal DNA relative to maternal DNA was not affected by the deletion of Dnase1l3 Collectively, our findings demonstrate that DNASE1L3 plays a role in circulating plasma DNA homeostasis by enhancing fragmentation and influencing end-motif frequencies. These results support a distinct role of DNASE1L3 as a regulator of the physical form and availability of cell-free DNA and may have important implications for the mechanism whereby this enzyme prevents autoimmunity. Copyright © 2019 the Author(s). Published by PNAS.
Journal: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America