Extracellular DNA, also called cell-free DNA, released from dying cells or activated immune cells can be recognized by the immune system as a danger signal causing or enhancing inflammation. The cleavage of extracellular DNA is crucial for limiting the inflammatory response and maintaining homeostasis. Deoxyribonucleases (DNases) as enzymes that degrade DNA are hypothesized to play a key role in this process as a determinant of the variable concentration of extracellular DNA. DNases are divided into two families—DNase I and DNase II, according to their biochemical and biological properties as well as the tissue-specific production. Studies have shown that low DNase activity is both, a biomarker and a pathogenic factor in systemic lupus erythematosus. Interventional experiments proved that administration of exogenous DNase has beneficial effects in inflammatory diseases. Recombinant human DNase reduces mucus viscosity in lungs and is used for the treatment of patients with cystic fibrosis. This review summarizes the currently available published data about DNases, their activity as a potential biomarker and methods used for their assessment. An overview of the experiments with systemic administration of DNase is also included. Whether low-plasma DNase activity is involved in the etiopathogenesis of diseases remains unknown and needs to be elucidated.
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