Mitochondrial DNA in innate immune responses and inflammatory pathology

Nat Rev Immunol. 2017 Jun;17(6):363-375. doi: 10.1038/nri.2017.21. Epub 2017 Apr 10.


Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) - which is well known for its role in oxidative phosphorylation and maternally inherited mitochondrial diseases - is increasingly recognized as an agonist of the innate immune system that influences antimicrobial responses and inflammatory pathology. On entering the cytoplasm, extracellular space or circulation, mtDNA can engage multiple pattern-recognition receptors in cell-type- and context-dependent manners to trigger pro-inflammatory and type I interferon responses. Here, we review the expanding research field of mtDNA in innate immune responses to highlight new mechanistic insights and discuss the physiological and pathological relevance of this exciting area of mitochondrial biology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alarmins / immunology
  • Animals
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Inflammation / pathology


  • Alarmins
  • DNA, Mitochondrial