The DNA-sensing AIM2 inflammasome controls radiation-induced cell death and tissue injury

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Science  11 Nov 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6313, pp. 765-768
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf7532

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AIMing to block tissue damage

Ionizing radiation kills actively dividing cells such as those in the gut and in the bone marrow. Hu et al. found a pathological role for the protein AIM2 in irradiation-induced tissue damage. AIM2 is best known for its role in sensing double-stranded DNA in the cytoplasm and alerting the body to infections. It seems that AIM2 also senses DNA damage caused by radiation and then triggers intestinal epithelial cells and bone marrow cells to die. Deficiency in AIM2 protected mice from irradiation-induced gastrointestinal syndrome and hematopoietic failure.

Science, this issue p. 765


Acute exposure to ionizing radiation induces massive cell death and severe damage to tissues containing actively proliferating cells, including bone marrow and the gastrointestinal tract. However, the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying this pathology remain controversial. Here, we show that mice deficient in the double-stranded DNA sensor AIM2 are protected from both subtotal body irradiation–induced gastrointestinal syndrome and total body irradiation–induced hematopoietic failure. AIM2 mediates the caspase-1–dependent death of intestinal epithelial cells and bone marrow cells in response to double-strand DNA breaks caused by ionizing radiation and chemotherapeutic agents. Mechanistically, we found that AIM2 senses radiation-induced DNA damage in the nucleus to mediate inflammasome activation and cell death. Our results suggest that AIM2 may be a new therapeutic target for ionizing radiation exposure.

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