Discriminating self from non-self in nucleic acid sensing

Nat Rev Immunol. 2016 Sep;16(9):566-80. doi: 10.1038/nri.2016.78. Epub 2016 Jul 25.


Innate immunity against pathogens relies on an array of immune receptors to detect molecular patterns that are characteristic of the pathogens, including receptors that are specialized in the detection of foreign nucleic acids. In vertebrates, nucleic acid sensing is the dominant antiviral defence pathway. Stimulation of nucleic acid receptors results in antiviral immune responses with the production of type I interferon (IFN), as well as the expression of IFN-stimulated genes, which encode molecules such as cell-autonomous antiviral effector proteins. This Review summarizes the tremendous progress that has been made in understanding how this sophisticated immune sensory system discriminates self from non-self nucleic acids in order to reliably detect pathogenic viruses.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology*
  • Nucleic Acids / immunology*
  • Self Tolerance / immunology*


  • Nucleic Acids