First published August 1, 1975 - More info
Circulating DNA has been associated with several human disorders, including the nephritis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), in which it is thought to play an etiological role. However, it remains unclear whether its appearance in the circulation is truly pathological. Several reports, each generally based on a single assay method, have disagreed as to whether DNA may circulate in normals. Some, but not all, of this disagreement may be explained by the recently described appearance of DNA in serum, but not plasma, apparently as the result of release from leukocytes in vitro. In the present report an attempt is made to clarify this problem. Normal plasma and serum samples were examined by four assays for DNA that were newly modified to enhance their specificity and/or sensitivity. Plasma DNA was undetectable by all four methods, the most sensitive of which could detect 0.05 mug/ml of native DNA (nDNA) or 0.1 mug/ml of single-stranded DNA (ssDNA). Serum DNA was present in 14 of 16 samples tested in variable concentrations with an estimated mean of 1.9 mug/ml. It is concluded that the appearance of DNA in adult human plasma is a pathological event. Presumably, previous reports describing detection of DNA in normal plasma were based on the measurement of non-DNAase-sensitive interfering substance. Furthermore, it is emphasized that the use of serum in studies dependent on sensitive assays for DNA (or anti-DNA antibody) introduces an ambiguity that may be avoided by substitution of carefully collected plasma for serum.