Airway surface liquid contains endogenous DNase activity which can be activated by exogenous magnesium

Eur J Med Res. 2009 Jul 22;14(7):304-8. doi: 10.1186/2047-783x-14-7-304.


Introduction: The removal of highly viscous mucus from the airways is an important task in the treatment of chronic lung disease like in cystic fibrosis. The inhalation of recombinant human DNase- I (rhDNase-I) is used to facilitate the removal of tenacious airway secretions in different lung diseases and especially in CF. Little is known about endogenous DNase activity in the airway surface liquid. Therefore, we analysed bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BAL) and exhaled breath condensate (EBC) for the presence of endogenous DNase activity.

Methods: The degradation of plasmid DNA by BAL from patients who had diagnostic bronchoscopy and bronchoalveolar lavage was analyzed. In a group of CF patients and healthy control volunteers the exhaled breath condensate was obtained and also analyzed for the ability to degrade plasmid DNA. In addition, the ability of magnesium to activate endogenous DNase activity in BAL and exhaled breath condensate was investigated.

Results: The analyzed BAL samples degraded plasmid DNA only after preincubation with magnesium. When analyzing the exhaled breath condensate the samples obtained from the healthy volunteers showed no DNase activity even after preincubation with magnesium, whereas in one of the two samples obtained from CF patients we found a DNase activity after preincubation with magnesium.

Conclusion: Increasing the magnesium concentration in the airway surface liquid by aerosolisation of magnesium solutions or oral magnesium supplements could improve the removal of highly viscous mucus in chronic lung disease by activating endogenous DNase activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / chemistry
  • Cystic Fibrosis / enzymology
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA / metabolism
  • Deoxyribonucleases / metabolism*
  • Electrophoresis, Agar Gel
  • Enzyme Activation / drug effects
  • Exhalation
  • Humans
  • Magnesium / pharmacology*
  • Plasmids / genetics
  • Plasmids / metabolism
  • Respiratory Mucosa / enzymology*


  • DNA
  • Deoxyribonucleases
  • Magnesium