STING is a direct innate immune sensor of cyclic di-GMP

Nature. 2011 Sep 25;478(7370):515-8. doi: 10.1038/nature10429.


The innate immune system detects infection by using germline-encoded receptors that are specific for conserved microbial molecules. The recognition of microbial ligands leads to the production of cytokines, such as type I interferons (IFNs), that are essential for successful pathogen elimination. Cytosolic detection of pathogen-derived DNA is one major mechanism of inducing IFN production, and this process requires signalling through TANK binding kinase 1 (TBK1) and its downstream transcription factor, IFN-regulatory factor 3 (IRF3). In addition, a transmembrane protein called STING (stimulator of IFN genes; also known as MITA, ERIS, MPYS and TMEM173) functions as an essential signalling adaptor, linking the cytosolic detection of DNA to the TBK1-IRF3 signalling axis. Recently, unique nucleic acids called cyclic dinucleotides, which function as conserved signalling molecules in bacteria, have also been shown to induce a STING-dependent type I IFN response. However, a mammalian sensor of cyclic dinucleotides has not been identified. Here we report evidence that STING itself is an innate immune sensor of cyclic dinucleotides. We demonstrate that STING binds directly to radiolabelled cyclic diguanylate monophosphate (c-di-GMP), and we show that unlabelled cyclic dinucleotides, but not other nucleotides or nucleic acids, compete with c-di-GMP for binding to STING. Furthermore, we identify mutations in STING that selectively affect the response to cyclic dinucleotides without affecting the response to DNA. Thus, STING seems to function as a direct sensor of cyclic dinucleotides, in addition to its established role as a signalling adaptor in the IFN response to cytosolic DNA. Cyclic dinucleotides have shown promise as novel vaccine adjuvants and immunotherapeutics, and our results provide insight into the mechanism by which cyclic dinucleotides are sensed by the innate immune system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Cyclic GMP / analogs & derivatives*
  • Cyclic GMP / immunology
  • DNA / immunology
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology*
  • Interferons / immunology
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / immunology*
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Molecular Sequence Data


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Sting1 protein, mouse
  • bis(3',5')-cyclic diguanylic acid
  • DNA
  • Interferons
  • Cyclic GMP