Biological roles for extracellular RNA (eRNA) have become apparent. For example, eRNA can induce contact activation in blood via activation of the plasma proteases factor XII (FXII) and factor XI (FXI). We sought to reveal the biological role of the secretory enzyme ribonuclease 1 (RNase 1) in an organismal context by generating and analyzing RNase 1 knockout (Rnase1 -/-) mice. We found that these mice are viable, healthy, and fertile, though larger than Rnase1 +/+ mice. Rnase1 -/- plasma contains more RNA than does the plasma of Rnase1 +/+ mice. Moreover, the plasma of Rnase1 -/- mice clots more rapidly than does wild-type plasma. This phenotype appeared to be due to increased levels of the active form of FXII (FXIIa) in the plasma of Rnase1 -/- mice compared to Rnase1 +/+ mice, and is consistent with the known effects of eRNA on FXII activation. The apparent activity of FXI in the plasma of Rnase1 -/- mice was 1000-fold higher when measured in an assay triggered by a low concentration of tissue factor than in assays based on recalcification, consistent with eRNA enhancing FXI activation by thrombin. These findings suggest that one of the physiological functions of RNase 1 is to degrade eRNA in blood plasma. Loss of this function facilitates FXII and FXI activation, which could have effects on inflammation and blood coagulation. We anticipate that Rnase1 -/- mice will be a useful tool for evaluating other hypotheses about the functions of RNase 1 and of eRNA in vivo.
Keywords: blood coagulation; eRNA; gene knockout; mouse; ribonuclease.
© 2019 Garnett et al.; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press for the RNA Society.