Tracing the STING exocytosis pathway during herpes viruses infection

mBio. 2024 Apr 10;15(4):e0037324. doi: 10.1128/mbio.00373-24. Epub 2024 Mar 12.


The STimulator of INterferon Genes (STING) constitutes a major DNA-sensing pathway that restricts HSV-1 infection in different models by activating type I interferon and pro-inflammatory responses. To counteract STING, HSV-1 has evolved numerous strategies including mechanisms to interfere with its oligomerization, post-translational modifications, and downstream signaling. Previously, we demonstrated that STING is packaged in extracellular vesicles (EVs) produced from HSV-1-infected cells. These EVs activated antiviral responses in uninfected recipient cells and suppressed a subsequent HSV-1 infection in a STING-dependent manner. Here, we provide information on the packaging of STING in EVs and its exocytosis. We found that STING exocytosis did not occur in CD63 knockdown cells supporting that STING follows the CD63 exocytosis pathway. Consistently, we found that STING co-localized with CD63 in cytoplasmic globular structures and exosomal STING and CD63 co-fractionated. Both golgicide A and brefeldin A prevented STING exocytosis during HSV-1 infection suggesting that STING trafficking through the Golgi is required. A STING ligand was insufficient for STING exocytosis, and downstream signaling through TBK1 was not required. However, STING palmitoylation and tethering to the ER by STIM1 were required for STING exocytosis. Finally, we found that HSV-1 replication/late gene expression triggered CD63 exocytosis that was required for STING exocytosis. Surprisingly, HSV-2 strain G did not trigger CD63 or STING exocytosis as opposed to VZV and HCMV. Also, EVs from HSV-1(F)- and HSV-2(G)-infected cells displayed differences in their ability to restrict these viruses. Overall, STING exocytosis is induced by certain viruses and shapes the microenvironment of infection.IMPORTANCEExtracellular vesicles (EVs) are released by all types of cells as they constitute a major mechanism of intercellular communication. The packaging of specific cargo in EVs and the pathway of exocytosis are not fully understood. STING is a sensor of a broad spectrum of pathogens and a key component of innate immunity. STING exocytosis during HSV-1 infection has been an intriguing observation, raising questions of whether this is a virus-induced process, the purpose it serves, and whether it is observed after infection with other viruses. Here, we have provided insights into the pathway of STING exocytosis and determined factors involved. STING exocytosis is a virus-induced process and not a response of the host to the infection. Besides HSV-1, other herpes viruses triggered STING exocytosis, but HSV-2(G) did not. HSV-1 EVs displayed different restriction capabilities compared with HSV-2(G) EVs. Overall, STING exocytosis is triggered by viruses to shape the microenvironment of infection.

Keywords: CD63; HSV-1; STIM1 innate immunity; STING; extracellular vesicles; tetraspanins.

MeSH terms

  • Exocytosis
  • Herpes Simplex*
  • Herpesvirus 1, Human* / physiology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism


  • Membrane Proteins
  • STING1 protein, human