Degradation of chromosomal DNA during apoptosis

Cell Death Differ. 2003 Jan;10(1):108-16. doi: 10.1038/sj.cdd.4401161.


Apoptosis is often accompanied by degradation of chromosomal DNA. CAD, caspase-activated DNase, was identified in 1998 as a DNase that is responsible for this process. In the last several years, mice deficient in the CAD system have been generated. Studies with these mice indicated that apoptotic DNA degradation occurs in two different systems. In one, the DNA fragmentation is carried out by CAD in the dying cells and in the other, by lysosomal DNase II after the dying cells are phagocytosed. Several other endonucleases have also been suggested as candidate effectors for the apoptotic degradation of chromosomal DNA. In this review, we will discuss the mechanism and role of DNA degradation during apoptosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / genetics*
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • Chromosomes / genetics*
  • DNA / metabolism*
  • DNA Fragmentation / genetics*
  • Deoxyribonucleases / genetics
  • Deoxyribonucleases / metabolism*
  • Endodeoxyribonucleases / genetics
  • Endodeoxyribonucleases / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Proteins / genetics
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • Proteins
  • caspase-activated DNase inhibitor
  • DNA
  • Deoxyribonucleases
  • Endodeoxyribonucleases
  • caspase-activated deoxyribonuclease
  • deoxyribonuclease II