Combating invading DNA: A process conserved in evolution? (2012–2014)
Defence of cells and their genomes against invading DNA is an ancient need, with mechanisms described in bacteria and mammals. Mammalian cells respond to DNA with both cell death and production of anti-viral molecules. Such defences against infection are expected to be fundamental to multicellular life, but surprisingly, the DNA receptors thus far described are mammalian-specific. We provide evidence that both chicken and insect cells respond to foreign cytoplasmic DNA. We propose to characterise cell death and activation in these species and identify receptors recognising foreign DNA. This will describe the evolution of fundamental anti-microbial and genome-protective responses, and help elucidate some unexplained mammalian responses.