Circulating nucleic acids and apoptosis

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2001 Sep;945:239-49. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2001.tb03892.x.


It is well documented that plasma contains DNA from tissues throughout the body, including developing fetuses, and tumors. A portion of this DNA crosses the kidney barrier and appears in urine (i.e., transrenal DNA). However, molecular, cellular, and physiological mechanisms of the circulating DNA phenomenon and renal clearance are in an early phase of investigation. Here, we discuss possible forms of circulating DNA, factors affecting representation of different tissues and genomic sequences in plasma DNA, possible mechanisms of renal DNA clearance, and technical problems encountered in DNA isolation from urine. We suggest that apoptotic cells are an important source of DNA in both plasma and urine. Further analysis of the data has led us to propose that a significant portion of circulating DNA can be represented in apoptotic bodies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis*
  • DNA / blood*
  • DNA / isolation & purification
  • DNA / metabolism
  • DNA / urine*
  • Genome
  • Humans
  • Kidney / metabolism


  • DNA