During the last few years, mitochondrial DNA has attained much attention as a modulator of immune responses. Due to common evolutionary origin, mitochondrial DNA shares various characteristic features with DNA of bacteria, as it consists of a remarkable number of unmethylated DNA as 2′-deoxyribose cytidine-phosphate-guanosine (CpG) islands. Due to this particular feature, mitochondrial DNA seems to be recognized as a pathogen-associated molecular pattern by the innate immune system. Under the normal physiological situation, mitochondrial DNA is enclosed in the double membrane structure of mitochondria. However, upon pathological conditions, it is usually released into the cytoplasm. Growing evidence suggests that this cytosolic mitochondrial DNA induces various innate immune signaling pathways involving NLRP3, toll-like receptor 9, and stimulator of interferon genes (STING) signaling, which participate in triggering downstream cascade and stimulating to produce effector molecules. Mitochondrial DNA is responsible for inflammatory diseases after stress and cellular damage. In addition, it is also involved in the anti-viral and anti-bacterial innate immunity. Thus, instead of entire mitochondrial importance in cellular metabolism and energy production, mitochondrial DNA seems to be essential in triggering innate anti-microbial immunity. Here, we describe existing knowledge on the involvement of mitochondrial DNA in the anti-microbial immunity by modulating the various immune signaling pathways.
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