Changes in the biochemical taste of cytoplasmic and cell-free DNA are major fuels for inflamm-aging

Gianluca Storci, Sabrina De Carolis, Fabiola Olivieri, Massimiliano Bonafè

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Inflamm-aging depicts the progressive activation of the innate immune system that accompanies human aging. Its role as a disease-predisposing condition has been proposed, but its molecular basis is still poorly understood. A wealth of literature conveys that, particularly upon stress, nuclear and mitochondrial genomes are released into the cytoplasmic and extracellular compartments. Cytoplasmic (cy) and cell-free (cf) DNA pools trigger inflammation and innate immunity at local and systemic level. In particular, cyDNA plays a crucial role in the phenomenon of cell senescence and in the cognate pro-inflammatory secretome. Here we propose that changes in a variety of biochemical characteristics “tastes” of cy- and cf-DNA (e.g. the amount of 8-oxo-deoxy-guanosine and 5-methyl-deoxy-cytosine, the proportion of DNA hybridized with RNA) potentially affect the capability of these DNA pools to ignite the innate immune system. We also underpin that telomeric sequences are major components of the cy/cfDNA payload. Telomere shortening, a hallmark of aging, causes the depletion of telomeric sequences in cy/cfDNA pool, thus unleashing their potential to exert an age-related activation of the innate immune system. Finally, we posit that various sources of DNA (extracellular vesicles, the commensal metagenome and food) contribute to the cy/cfDNA payloads. We speculate that changes in the biochemical “taste” of cy/cfDNA are major modifiers of inflamm-aging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-16
Number of pages11
JournalSeminars in Immunology
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2018


  • Cell-free DNA
  • DNA:RNA hybrids
  • Extracellular vesicles
  • Inflamm-aging
  • Telomeres

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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