Human plasmacytoid dentritic cells elicit a Type I Interferon response by sensing DNA via the cGAS-STING signaling pathway

Eur J Immunol. 2016 Jul;46(7):1615-21. doi: 10.1002/eji.201546113. Epub 2016 May 27.


Plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) are a major source of type I interferon (IFN) and are important for host defense by sensing microbial DNA via TLR9. pDCs also play a critical role in the pathogenesis of IFN-driven autoimmune diseases. Yet, this autoimmune reaction is caused by the recognition of self-DNA and has been linked to TLR9-independent pathways. Increasing evidence suggests that the cytosolic DNA receptor cyclic GMP-AMP (cGAMP) synthase (cGAS) is a critical component in the detection of pathogens and contributes to autoimmune diseases. It has been shown that binding of DNA to cGAS results in the synthesis of cGAMP and the subsequent activation of the stimulator of interferon genes (STING) adaptor to induce IFNs. Our results show that the cGAS-STING pathway is expressed and activated in human pDCs by cytosolic DNA leading to a robust type I IFN response. Direct activation of STING by cyclic dinucleotides including cGAMP also activated pDCs and knockdown of STING abolished this IFN response. These results suggest that pDCs sense cytosolic DNA and cyclic dinucleotides via the cGAS-STING pathway and that targeting this pathway could be of therapeutic interest.

Keywords: Cytosolic sensor; DNA; Dentritic cells; Innate immunity; Interferon; Toll-like-receptors.

MeSH terms

  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytosol / immunology
  • Cytosol / metabolism
  • DNA / immunology*
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology*
  • Dendritic Cells / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Interferon Regulatory Factor-3 / genetics
  • Interferon Regulatory Factor-3 / metabolism
  • Interferon Type I / genetics
  • Interferon Type I / metabolism*
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Nucleotidyltransferases / genetics
  • Nucleotidyltransferases / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Toll-Like Receptor 9 / metabolism


  • Interferon Regulatory Factor-3
  • Interferon Type I
  • Membrane Proteins
  • STING1 protein, human
  • Toll-Like Receptor 9
  • DNA
  • Nucleotidyltransferases
  • cGAS protein, human