Intercellular cGAMP transmission induces innate immune activation and tissue inflammation in Trex1 deficiency

iScience. 2021 Jul 9;24(8):102833. doi: 10.1016/j.isci.2021.102833. eCollection 2021 Aug 20.


Intercellular transmission of the second messenger 2',3'-cGAMP, synthesized by the viral DNA sensor cGAMP synthase (cGAS), is a potent mode of bystander activation during host defense. However, whether this mechanism also contributes to cGAS-dependent autoimmunity remains unknown. Here, using a murine bone marrow transplantation strategy, we demonstrate that, in Trex1 -/- -associated autoimmunity, cGAMP shuttling from radioresistant to immune cells induces NF-κB activation, interferon regulatory factor 3 (IRF3) phosphorylation, and subsequent interferon signaling. cGAMP travel prevented myeloid cell and lymphocyte death, promoting their accumulation in secondary lymphoid tissue. Nonetheless, it did not stimulate B cell differentiation into autoantibody-producing plasmablasts or aberrant T cell priming. Although cGAMP-mediated bystander activation did not induce spontaneous organ disease, it did trigger interface dermatitis after UV light exposure, similar to cutaneous lupus erythematosus. These findings reveal that, in Trex1-deficiency, intercellular cGAMP transfer propagates cGAS signaling and, under conducive conditions, causes tissue inflammation.

Keywords: Cell biology; Immune response; Immunity; Immunology.