Extracellular DNA Correlates with Intestinal Inflammation in Chemically Induced Colitis in Mice

Cells. 2021 Jan 6;10(1):81. doi: 10.3390/cells10010081.


Circulating extracellular DNA (ecDNA) is known to worsen the outcome of many diseases. ecDNA released from neutrophils during infection or inflammation is present in the form of neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs). It has been shown that higher ecDNA concentration occurs in a number of inflammatory diseases including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Enzymes such as peptidyl arginine deiminases (PADs) are crucial for NET formation. We sought to describe the dynamics of ecDNA concentrations and fragmentation, along with NETosis during a mouse model of chemically induced colitis. Plasma ecDNA concentration was highest on day seven of dextran sulfate sodium (DSS) intake and the increase was time-dependent. This increase correlated with the percentage of cells undergoing NETosis and other markers of disease activity. Relative proportion of nuclear ecDNA increased towards more severe colitis; however, absolute amount decreased. In colon explant medium, the highest concentration of ecDNA was on day three of DSS consumption. Early administration of PAD4 inhibitors did not alleviate disease activity, but lowered the ecDNA concentration. These results uncover the biological characteristics of ecDNA in IBD and support the role of ecDNA in intestinal inflammation. The therapeutic intervention aimed at NETs and/or nuclear ecDNA has yet to be fully investigated.

Keywords: PAD4; cell-free DNA; deoxyribonuclease activity; neutrophil extracellular traps; ulcerative colitis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Colitis / blood
  • Colitis / chemically induced*
  • Colitis / pathology
  • DNA / blood
  • DNA / metabolism*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / blood
  • Deoxyribonucleases / metabolism
  • Dextran Sulfate
  • Endoscopy
  • Extracellular Space / metabolism*
  • Extracellular Traps / drug effects
  • Extracellular Traps / metabolism
  • Inflammation / blood
  • Inflammation / pathology*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / drug effects
  • Intestinal Mucosa / pathology
  • Intestines / drug effects
  • Intestines / pathology*
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Ornithine / analogs & derivatives
  • Ornithine / pharmacology
  • Protein-Arginine Deiminase Type 4 / metabolism
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Streptonigrin / pharmacology


  • Biomarkers
  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • N-alpha-benzoyl-N5-(2-chloro-1-iminoethyl)-L-ornithine amide
  • Streptonigrin
  • DNA
  • Dextran Sulfate
  • Ornithine
  • Deoxyribonucleases
  • Protein-Arginine Deiminase Type 4
  • peptidylarginine deiminase 4, mouse