The porcine cGAS-STING pathway exerts an unusual antiviral function independent of IFN and autophagy

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The innate immune DNA sensing cGAS-STING pathway exerts strong antiviral activity through the downstream interferon (IFN) production; however, it has been recently recognized that IFN independent activity of STING also plays an important role in antiviral functions. Nevertheless, the IFN independent antiviral activity of STING is not fully understood. In this study, we showed that porcine STING (pSTING) played a critical role in anti-HSV1 and anti-VSV infections, and IFN defective mutants including pSTING pLxIS sub, S365A and ΔCTT all exhibited similar antiviral functions to wild type (WT) pSTING. Further, all these IFN defective pSTING mutants possessed a comparable autophagy activity relative to WT pSTING as expected. From pSTING WT, S365A and ΔCTT, the residues responsible for autophagy were mutated, which included L333A/R334A, Y167A/L170A and Y245A/L248A, respectively. Surprisingly, all these autophagy defective pSTING mutants still resisted from the two viral infections, demonstrating the pSTING antiviral function independent of IFN as well as autophagy. On the other hand, all the autophagy defective pSTING mutants triggered cell apoptosis, which was associated with the antiviral functions. Additionally, pSTING lost its antiviral activity in TBK1 -/- and IRF3 -/- porcine macrophages, indicating the involvement of TBK1 and IRF3 in other STING activity such as apoptosis. Collectively, our results revealed that STING exerts both IFN and autophagy independent antiviral activity, and also suggested that STING triggered cell apoptosis might resist from virus infections.

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