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September 19, 1977

Circulating Nucleases and Disease

JAMA. 1977;238(12):1248. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03280130030007

To the Editor.—  Human viral and autoimmune disorders may be affected by serum nuclease activity. Man, unlike many other species, is resistant to oncornavirus infection, apparently lysing RNA tumor viruses via a complement reaction that does not involve antibody.1 The viral RNA can then be destroyed by the relatively high serum ribonuclease activity. However, serum deoxyribonuclease (DNase) levels are quite low in man2 and are further decreased in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and anti-nuclear antibodies by an inhibitor released from platelets.3 This decreased nuclease activity would allow the persistence of circulating DNA, which could then stimulate peripheral B lymphocytes specific for native DNA. Such cells exist in normal persons,4 and the corresponding antigen, native DNA, is also present in human and animal circulation in some disease states. Mice given endotoxin release large amounts of DNA into the circulation and later form anti-DNA antibodies.2