Cellular sensing of viral DNA and viral evasion mechanisms

Annu Rev Microbiol. 2014;68:477-92. doi: 10.1146/annurev-micro-091313-103409. Epub 2014 Jun 16.


Mammalian cells detect foreign DNA introduced as free DNA or as a result of microbial infection, leading to the induction of innate immune responses that block microbial replication and the activation of mechanisms that epigenetically silence the genes encoded by the foreign DNA. A number of DNA sensors localized to a variety of sites within the cell have been identified, and this review focuses on the mechanisms that detect viral DNA and how the resulting responses affect viral infections. Viruses have evolved mechanisms that inhibit these host sensors and signaling pathways, and the study of these antagonistic viral strategies has provided insight into the mechanisms of these host responses. The field of cellular sensing of foreign DNA is in its infancy, but our currently limited knowledge has raised a number of important questions for study.

Keywords: DNA sensors; IFI16; cGAS; epigenetics; herpes simplex virus; human immunodeficiency virus; innate responses; intrinsic resistance; vaccinia virus.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA Virus Infections / immunology*
  • DNA Virus Infections / virology*
  • DNA Viruses / genetics
  • DNA Viruses / immunology*
  • DNA Viruses / physiology
  • DNA, Viral / genetics
  • DNA, Viral / immunology
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • Immune Evasion


  • DNA, Viral