Spontaneously produced anti-DNA/DNase I autoantibodies modulate nuclear apoptosis in living cells

Michael P. Madaio, Marina Fabbi, Micaela Tiso, Antonio Daga, Antonio Puccetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Apoptosis has received increased attention over the past decade, and it is established as an essential process in physiological and disease states. Much effort has been devoted to understanding the intracellular mechanisms culminating in apoptosis; intense investigation has also focused on its role during inflammation. Despite these efforts, these events remain incompletely understood. It has been suggested that the Ca2+- and Mg2+-dependent endonuclease that mediates DNA fragmentation is DNase I; however, the precise role of DNase I during apoptosis has been debated. Recent observations using anti-DNA antibodies derived from autoimmune mice (MRL-1pr/1pr) provided both the means and the reagents to approach these issues in a more direct manner. We previously discovered that many anti-DNA antibodies cross-react with DNase I, and a subset of these Ig inhibited DNase I enzymatic activity in vitro. Serendipitously, in separate studies, a subset of these antibodies were observed to enter and localize within the nuclei of living cells. The aim of the present investigation was to determine whether these nuclear-localizing anti-DNA antibodies could interact with DNase I in living cells. We found that, once internalized, these autoantibodies bound DNase I and inhibited activity of the enzyme. Furthermore, living cells containing the intracellular antibodies appeared resistant to apoptotic stimuli; both morphological features of nuclear apoptosis and DNA fragmentation were inhibited. These results support a pivotal role for DNase I in apoptosis, and they provide a novel paradigm for autoantibody-mediated inflammatory disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3035-3041
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Immunology
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1996


  • Apoptosis
  • Autoantibody
  • DNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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