Extrachromosomal circular DNA: biogenesis, structure, functions and diseases

Signal Transduct Target Ther. 2022 Oct 2;7(1):342. doi: 10.1038/s41392-022-01176-8.


Extrachromosomal circular DNA (eccDNA), ranging in size from tens to millions of base pairs, is independent of conventional chromosomes. Recently, eccDNAs have been considered an unanticipated major source of somatic rearrangements, contributing to genomic remodeling through chimeric circularization and reintegration of circular DNA into the linear genome. In addition, the origin of eccDNA is considered to be associated with essential chromatin-related events, including the formation of super-enhancers and DNA repair machineries. Moreover, our understanding of the properties and functions of eccDNA has continuously and greatly expanded. Emerging investigations demonstrate that eccDNAs serve as multifunctional molecules in various organisms during diversified biological processes, such as epigenetic remodeling, telomere trimming, and the regulation of canonical signaling pathways. Importantly, its special distribution potentiates eccDNA as a measurable biomarker in many diseases, especially cancers. The loss of eccDNA homeostasis facilitates tumor initiation, malignant progression, and heterogeneous evolution in many cancers. An in-depth understanding of eccDNA provides novel insights for precision cancer treatment. In this review, we summarized the discovery history of eccDNA, discussed the biogenesis, characteristics, and functions of eccDNA. Moreover, we emphasized the role of eccDNA during tumor pathogenesis and malignant evolution. Therapeutically, we summarized potential clinical applications that target aberrant eccDNA in multiple diseases.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chromatin
  • DNA, Circular* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms* / genetics


  • Chromatin
  • DNA, Circular