Endogenous Deoxyribonuclease Activity and Cell-Free Deoxyribonucleic Acid in Acute Ischemic Stroke: A Cohort Study

Stroke. 2022 Apr;53(4):1235-1244. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.121.036299. Epub 2022 Jan 7.


Background: Cell-free DNA (cfDNA) and endogenous deoxyribonuclease activity are opposing mediators and might influence the inflammatory response following acute ischemic stroke. In this cohort study, we investigated the relation between these markers, circulating inflammatory mediators and clinical course including occurrence of stroke-associated infections (SAI) in patients with acute stroke.

Methods: Ninety-two patients with stroke due to large vessel occlusion undergoing mechanical thrombectomy were prospectively recruited at Hannover Medical School from March 2018 to August 2019. Deoxyribonuclease activity, cfDNA, damage-associated molecular patterns, and circulating cytokines were measured in venous blood collected immediately before mechanical thrombectomy and 7 days later. Reperfusion status was categorized (sufficient/insufficient). Clinical outcome was evaluated using the modified Rankin Scale after 90 days, where a score of 3 to 6 was considered unfavorable. To validate findings regarding SAI, another stroke cohort (n=92) was considered with blood taken within 24 hours after stroke onset.

Results: Patients with unfavorable clinical outcome had higher cfDNA concentrations. After adjustment for confounders (Essen Stroke Risk Score, National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale, and sex), 7-day cfDNA was independently associated with clinical outcome and especially mortality (adjusted odds ratio: 3.485 [95% CI, 1.001-12.134] and adjusted odds ratio: 9.585 [95% CI, 2.006-45.790]). No association was found between reperfusion status and cfDNA or deoxyribonuclease activity. While cfDNA concentrations correlated positively, deoxyribonuclease activity inversely correlated with distinct biomarkers. Baseline deoxyribonuclease activity was lower in patients who developed SAI compared with patients without SAI. This association was confirmed after adjustment for confounding factors (adjusted odds ratio: 0.447 [95% CI, 0.237-0.844]). In cohort 2, differences of deoxyribonuclease activity between patients with and without SAI tended to be higher with higher stroke severity.

Conclusions: The interplay of endogenous deoxyribonuclease activity and cfDNA in acute stroke entails interesting novel diagnostic and potential therapeutic approaches. We confirm an independent association of cfDNA with a detrimental clinical course after stroke due to large vessel occlusion. This study provides first evidence for lower endogenous deoxyribonuclease activity as risk factor for SAI after severe stroke.

Keywords: deoxyribonucleases; infections; inflammation; ischemic stroke; thrombectomy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain Ischemia* / therapy
  • Cell-Free Nucleic Acids*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Deoxyribonucleases
  • Humans
  • Ischemic Stroke*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Stroke* / therapy
  • Thrombectomy / adverse effects
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Cell-Free Nucleic Acids
  • Deoxyribonucleases