Phosphoinositide Interactions Position cGAS at the Plasma Membrane to Ensure Efficient Distinction between Self- and Viral DNA

Cell. 2019 Mar 7;176(6):1432-1446.e11. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2019.01.049. Epub 2019 Feb 28.


The presence of DNA in the cytosol of mammalian cells is an unusual event that is often associated with genotoxic stress or viral infection. The enzyme cGAS is a sensor of cytosolic DNA that induces interferon and inflammatory responses that can be protective or pathologic, depending on the context. Along with other cytosolic innate immune receptors, cGAS is thought to diffuse throughout the cytosol in search of its DNA ligand. Herein, we report that cGAS is not a cytosolic protein but rather localizes to the plasma membrane via the actions of an N-terminal phosphoinositide-binding domain. This domain interacts selectively with PI(4,5)P2, and cGAS mutants defective for lipid binding are mislocalized to the cytosolic and nuclear compartments. Mislocalized cGAS induces potent interferon responses to genotoxic stress, but weaker responses to viral infection. These data establish the subcellular positioning of a cytosolic innate immune receptor as a mechanism that governs self-nonself discrimination.

Keywords: STING; cGAS; innate immunity; interferon; localization; macrophages; phosphoinositides.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane / physiology*
  • Cytosol / physiology
  • DNA, Viral / genetics
  • Female
  • HEK293 Cells
  • HeLa Cells
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / physiology
  • Interferons / metabolism
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nucleotidyltransferases / metabolism*
  • Nucleotidyltransferases / physiology
  • Phosphatidylinositol 4,5-Diphosphate / metabolism*
  • Phosphatidylinositol 4,5-Diphosphate / physiology
  • Phosphatidylinositols
  • Protein Binding
  • Signal Transduction / immunology


  • DNA, Viral
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Phosphatidylinositol 4,5-Diphosphate
  • Phosphatidylinositols
  • Interferons
  • Nucleotidyltransferases
  • cGAS protein, mouse