Brucella abortus Cyclic Dinucleotides Trigger STING-Dependent Unfolded Protein Response That Favors Bacterial Replication

J Immunol. 2019 May 1;202(9):2671-2681. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1801233. Epub 2019 Mar 20.


Brucella abortus is a facultative intracellular bacterium that causes brucellosis, a prevalent zoonosis that leads to abortion and infertility in cattle, and undulant fever, debilitating arthritis, endocarditis, and meningitis in humans. Signaling pathways triggered by B. abortus involves stimulator of IFN genes (STING), which leads to production of type I IFNs. In this study, we evaluated the pathway linking the unfolded protein response (UPR) and the endoplasmic reticulum-resident transmembrane molecule STING, during B. abortus infection. We demonstrated that B. abortus infection induces the expression of the UPR target gene BiP and XBP1 in murine macrophages through a STING-dependent pathway. Additionally, we also observed that STING activation was dependent on the bacterial second messenger cyclic dimeric GMP. Furthermore, the Brucella-induced UPR is crucial for induction of multiple molecules linked to type I IFN signaling pathway, such as IFN-β, IFN regulatory factor 1, and guanylate-binding proteins. Furthermore, IFN-β is also important for the UPR induction during B. abortus infection. Indeed, IFN-β shows a synergistic effect in inducing the IRE1 axis of the UPR. In addition, priming cells with IFN-β favors B. abortus survival in macrophages. Moreover, Brucella-induced UPR facilitates bacterial replication in vitro and in vivo. Finally, these results suggest that B. abortus-induced UPR is triggered by bacterial cyclic dimeric GMP, in a STING-dependent manner, and that this response supports bacterial replication. In summary, association of STING and IFN-β signaling pathways with Brucella-induced UPR unravels a novel link between innate immunity and endoplasmic reticulum stress that is crucial for bacterial infection outcome.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brucella abortus / physiology*
  • Brucellosis / genetics
  • Brucellosis / immunology*
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / genetics
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Nucleotides, Cyclic / genetics
  • Nucleotides, Cyclic / immunology*
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / immunology
  • Unfolded Protein Response / immunology*


  • Membrane Proteins
  • Nucleotides, Cyclic
  • Sting1 protein, mouse