Trashing the genome: the role of nucleases during apoptosis

Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2005 Sep;6(9):677-88. doi: 10.1038/nrm1715.


Two classes of nucleases degrade the cellular DNA during apoptosis. Cell-autonomous nucleases cleave DNA within the dying cell. They are not essential for apoptotic cell death or the life of the organism, but they might affect the efficiency of the process. By contrast, waste-management nucleases are essential for the life of the organism. In post-engulfment DNA degradation, the DNA of apoptotic cells is destroyed in lysosomes of the cells that have phagocytosed the corpses. Waste-management nucleases also destroy DNA that is released into the extracellular compartment. Here, we describe the complex group of nucleases that are involved in DNA destruction during apoptotic cell death.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Coenzymes
  • DNA Fragmentation
  • Deoxyribonucleases / chemistry
  • Deoxyribonucleases / metabolism*
  • Genome*
  • Humans
  • In Situ Nick-End Labeling
  • Models, Molecular
  • Protein Conformation


  • Coenzymes
  • Deoxyribonucleases