Damage-associated molecular pattern

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Damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs),[1] also known as danger-associated molecular patterns, danger signals, and alarmin, are host biomolecules that can initiate and perpetuate a noninfectious inflammatory response. In contrast, pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) initiate and perpetuate the infectious pathogen-induced inflammatory response.[2] DAMPs may be nuclear or cytosolic proteins, which when released from the cell or exposed on its surface – following tissue injury – move from a reducing to an oxidizing environment, resulting in their denaturation.[3] Following necrosis (a kind of cell death), tumor cell DNA is released, with the potential to be recognised as a DAMP.[4]


Two papers appearing in 1994 presaged the deeper understanding of innate immune reactivity, dictating the subsequent nature of the adaptive immune response. The first[5] came from transplant surgeons who conducted a prospective randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Administration of recombinant human superoxide dismutase (rh-SOD) in recipients of cadaveric renal allografts demonstrated prolonged patient and graft survival with improvement in both acute and chronic rejection events. They speculated that the effect was related to its antioxidant action on the initial ischemia/reperfusion injury of the renal allograft, thereby reducing the immunogenicity of the allograft and the "grateful dead" or stressed cells. Thus free radical-mediated reperfusion injury-was seen to contribute to the process of innate and subsequent adaptive immune responses.[citation needed]

The second[6] suggested the possibility that the immune system detected "danger", through a series of what we would now call damage associated molecular pattern molecules (DAMPs), working in concert with both positive and negative signals derived from other tissues. Thus these two papers together presaged the modern sense of the role of DAMPs and redox reviewed here, important apparently for both plant and animal resistance to pathogens and the response to cellular injury or damage. Although many immunologists had earlier noted that various "danger signals" could initiate innate immune responses, the "DAMP" was first described by Seong and Matzinger in 2004.[1]


DAMPs vary greatly depending on the type of cell (epithelial or mesenchymal) and injured tissue. Protein DAMPs include intracellular proteins, such as heat-shock proteins[7] or HMGB1[8] (high-mobility group box 1), and materials derived from the extracellular matrix that are generated following tissue injury, such as hyaluronan fragments.[9] Examples of non-protein DAMPs include ATP,[10][11] uric acid,[12] heparin sulfate and DNA.[4]


High-mobility group box 1 (HMGB1) is a prototypical chromatin-associated leaderless secreted protein (LSP), secreted in particular by hematopoietic cells through a lysosome-mediated pathway.[13] HMGB1 is a major mediator of endotoxin shock[14] and is recognised as a DAMP by certain immune cells, triggering an inflammatory response.[8] Known receptors for HMGB1 include TLR2, TLR4 and RAGE (receptor for advanced glycation endproducts).[15] HMGB1 can induce dendritic cell maturation via upregulation of CD80, CD83, CD86 and CD11c, it can induce the production of other pro-inflammatory cytokines in myeloid cells (IL-1, TNF-a, IL-6, IL-8), and it can lead to increased expression of cell adhesion molecules (ICAM-1, VCAM-1) on endothelial cells.[citation needed]

DNA and RNA[edit]

The presence of DNA anywhere other than the nucleus or mitochondria is perceived as a DAMP and triggers responses mediated by TLR9 and DAI that drive cellular activation and immunoreactivity. Some tissues such as the gut are inhibited by DNA in their immune response (this needs a reference, and may be a misinterpretation of what the gut does). Similarly, damaged RNAs released from UVB-exposed keratinocytes activate TLR3 on intact keratinocytes. TLR3 activation stimulates TNF-alpha and IL-6 production, which initiate the cutaneous inflammation associated with sunburn.[16]

S100 proteins[edit]

S100 is a multigenic family of calcium modulated proteins involved in intracellular and extracellular regulatory activities with a connection to cancer as well as tissue, particularly neuronal, injury.[17][18][19][20][21][15]

Purine metabolites[edit]

Nucleotides (e.g., ATP) and nucleosides (e.g., adenosine) that have reached the extracellular space can also serve as danger signals by signaling through purinergic receptors.[22] ATP and adenosine are released in high concentrations after catastrophic disruption of the cell, as occurs in necrotic cell death.[23] Extracellular ATP triggers mast cell degranulation by signaling through P2X7 receptors.[24][22][25] Similarly, adenosine triggers degranulation through P1 receptors. Uric acid is also an endogenous danger signal released by injured cells.[26]

Mono and polysaccharides[edit]

The ability of the immune system to recognize hyaluronan fragments is one example of how DAMPs can be made of sugars.[26]

Clinical targets in various disorders[edit]

Theoretically, the application of therapeutics in this area to treat disorders as arthritis, cancer, ischemia-reperfusion, myocardial infarction and stroke could include options as:

  1. Preventing DAMP release [proapoptotic therapies; platinums; ethyl pyruvate];
  2. Neutralizing or blocking DAMPs extracellularly [anti-HMGB1; rasburicase; sRAGE, etc.];
  3. Blocking the DAMP receptors or their signaling [RAGE small molecule antagonists; TLR4 antagonists; antibodies to DAMP-R].


  1. ^ a b Seong SY, Matzinger P (June 2004). "Hydrophobicity: an ancient damage-associated molecular pattern that initiates innate immune responses". Nature Reviews. Immunology. 4 (6): 469–78. doi:10.1038/nri1372. PMID 15173835.
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Further reading[edit]