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Camouflage and interception: How pathogens evade detection by intracellular nucleic acid sensors

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>03/2019
Issue number3
Number of pages11
Pages (from-to)217-227
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date30/11/18
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Intracellular DNA and RNA sensors play a vital part in the innate immune response to viruses and other intracellular pathogens, causing the secretion of type I interferons, cytokines and chemokines from infected cells. Pathogen RNA can be detected by retinoic-acid inducible gene I-like receptors in the cytosol, whereas cytosolic DNA is recognized by DNA sensors such as cyclic GMP-AMP synthase (cGAS). The resulting local immune response, which is initiated within hours of infection, is able to eliminate many pathogens before they are able to establish an infection in the host. For this reason, all viruses, and some intracellular bacteria and protozoa, need to evade detection by nucleic acid sensors. Immune evasion strategies include the sequestration and modification of nucleic acids, and the inhibition or degradation of host factors involved in innate immune signalling. Large DNA viruses, such as herpesviruses, often use multiple viral proteins to inhibit signalling cascades at several different points; for instance herpes simplex virus 1 targets both DNA sensors cGAS and interferon-γ-inducible protein 16, as well as the adaptor protein STING (stimulator of interferon genes) and other signalling factors in the pathway. Viruses with a small genome encode only a few immunomodulatory proteins, but these are often multifunctional, such as the NS1 protein from influenza A virus, which inhibits RNA sensing in multiple ways. Intracellular bacteria and protozoa can also be detected by nucleic acid sensors. However, as the type I interferon response is not always beneficial for the host under these circumstances, some bacteria subvert, rather than evade, these signalling cascades for their own gain.