Cyclic dinucleotides (CDNs) have been previously recognized as important secondary signaling molecules in bacteria and, more recently, in mammalian cells. In the former case, they represent secondary messengers affecting numerous responses of the prokaryotic cell, whereas in the latter, they act as agonists of the innate immune response. Remarkable new discoveries have linked these two patterns of utilization of CDNs as secondary messengers and have revealed unexpected influences they likely had on shaping human genetic variation. This Review summarizes these recent insights and provides a perspective on future unanswered questions in this exciting field.
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