The Aicardi-Goutières syndrome. Molecular and clinical features of RNAse deficiency and microRNA overload

A. Pulliero, E. Fazzi, C. Cartiglia, S. Orcesi, U. Balottin, C. Uggetti, R. La Piana, I. Olivieri, J. Galli, A. Izzotti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Intracellular RNAses are involved in various functions, including microRNA maturation and turnover. Mutations occurring in genes encoding RNAses cause Aicardi-Goutiéres syndrome (AGS). AGS mutations silence RNAse activity, thus inducing accumulation of endogenous RNAs, mainly consisting of short RNAs and microRNAs. Overload of intracellular RNA triggers Toll like receptor-dependent interferon-alpha production in the brain, which in turn activates neurotoxic lymphocytes and inhibits angiogenesis thus inducing the typical clinical phenotype of AGS. However, these pathogenic mechanisms are attenuated after three years of age by the endogenous production of DNAJP58IPK and Cystatin F, which arrest AGS progression. Because RNAses are involved in microRNA turnover, we evaluated the expression of 957 microRNAs in lymphocytes from AGS patients and control patients. Our results indicate that microRNA overload occurs in AGS patients. This upregulation inhibits microRNA turnover impeding the synthesis of the novel microRNAs required for the differentiation and myelination of the brain during the initial period of postnatal life. These pathogenic mechanisms result in AGS, a neurological syndrome characterized by irritability, mild hyperpyrexia, pyramidal and extrapyramidal signs, and spastic-dystonic tetraplegia. Typical cerebrospinal fluid alterations include lymphocytosis and elevated interferon-alpha levels. Brain imaging demonstrates cerebral calcifications, white matter abnormalities, and progressive cerebral atrophy.Thus, evidence exists that mutations silencing intracellular RNases affect microRNA turnover resulting in the severe clinical consequences in the brain characterizing the clinical feature of AGS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-108
Number of pages10
JournalMutation Research - Fundamental and Molecular Mechanisms of Mutagenesis
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2011


  • Aicardi-Goutières syndrome
  • Basal ganglia calcifications
  • Interferon alpha
  • MicroRNA overload
  • RNase deficiency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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