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In higher eukaryotes, sophisticate regulation of genome function requires all chromosomes to be packed into a single nucleus. Micronucleus (MN), the dissociative nucleus-like structure frequently observed in aging and multiple disease settings, has critical, yet under-recognized, pathophysiological functions. Micronuclei (MNi) have recently emerged as major sources of cytosolic DNA that can activate the cGAS-STING axis in a cell-intrinsic manner. However, MNi induced from different genotoxic stressors display great heterogeneity in binding or activating cGAS and the signaling responses downstream of the MN-induced cGAS-STING axis have divergent outcomes including autoimmunity, autoinflammation, metastasis, or cell death. Thus, full characterization of molecular network underpinning the interplay of cGAS and MN is important to elucidate the pathophysiological roles of immunogenic MN and design improved drugs that selectively target cancer via boosting the MN-derived cGAS-STING axis. Here, we summarize our current understanding of the mechanisms for self-DNA discrimination by cGAS. We focus on discussing how MN immunogencity is dictated by multiple mechanisms including integrity of micronuclear envelope, state of nucleosome and DNA, competitive factors, damaged mitochondrial DNA and micronucleophagy. We also describe emerging links between immunogenic MN and human diseases including cancer, neurodegenerative diseases and COVID-19. Particularly, we explore the exciting concept of inducing immunogenic MN as a therapeutic approach in treating cancer. We propose a new theoretical framework to describe immunogenic MN as a biological sensor to modulate cellular processes in response to genotoxic stress and provide perspectives on developing novel experimental approaches to unravel the complexity of MN immunogenicity regulation and immunogenic MN pathophysiology. Copyright © 2022 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Xihan Guo, Henning Hintzsche, Weijiang Xu, Juan Ni, Jinglun Xue, Xu Wang. Interplay of cGAS with micronuclei: Regulation and diseases. Mutation research. Reviews in mutation research. 2022 Jul-Dec;790:108440

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PMID: 35970331

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