The TREX1 double-stranded DNA degradation activity is defective in dominant mutations associated with autoimmune disease

J Biol Chem. 2008 Nov 14;283(46):31649-56. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M806155200. Epub 2008 Sep 18.


Mutations in TREX1 have been linked to a spectrum of human autoimmune diseases including Aicardi-Goutières syndrome (AGS), familial chilblain lupus (FCL), systemic lupus erythematosus, and retinal vasculopathy and cerebral leukodystrophy. A common feature in these conditions is the frequent detection of antibodies to double-stranded DNA (dsDNA). TREX1 participates in a cell death process implicating this major 3' --> 5' exonuclease in genomic DNA degradation to minimize potential immune activation by persistent self DNA. The TREX1 D200N and D18N dominant heterozygous mutations were identified in AGS and FCL, respectively. TREX1 enzymes containing the D200N and D18N mutations were compared using nicked dsDNA and single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) degradation assays. The TREX1WT/D200N and TREX1WT/D18N heterodimers are completely deficient at degrading dsDNA and degrade ssDNA at an expected approximately 2-fold lower rate than TREX1WT enzyme. Further, the D200N- and D18N-containing TREX1 homo- and heterodimers inhibit the dsDNA degradation activity of TREX1WT enzyme, providing a likely explanation for the dominant phenotype of these TREX1 mutant alleles in AGS and FCL. By comparison, the TREX1 R114H homozygous mutation causes AGS and is found as a heterozygous mutation in systemic lupus erythematosus. The TREX1R114H/R114H homodimer has dysfunctional dsDNA and ssDNA degradation activities and does not detectibly inhibit the TREX1WT enzyme, whereas the TREX1WT/R114H heterodimer has a functional dsDNA degradation activity, supporting the recessive genetics of TREX1 R114H in AGS. The dysfunctional dsDNA degradation activities of these disease-related TREX1 mutants could account for persistent dsDNA from dying cells leading to an aberrant immune response in these clinically related disorders.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Autoimmune Diseases / enzymology*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / genetics
  • DNA / metabolism*
  • Exodeoxyribonucleases / chemistry*
  • Exodeoxyribonucleases / genetics
  • Exodeoxyribonucleases / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Phosphoproteins / chemistry*
  • Phosphoproteins / genetics
  • Phosphoproteins / metabolism*
  • Protein Multimerization
  • Protein Structure, Quaternary


  • Phosphoproteins
  • DNA
  • Exodeoxyribonucleases
  • three prime repair exonuclease 1