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DNA sensing in cancer: Pro-tumour and anti-tumour functions of cGAS-STING signalling

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineReview articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>28/09/2023
<mark>Journal</mark>Essays in Biochemistry
Issue number6
Number of pages14
Pages (from-to)905-918
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date3/08/23
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The DNA sensor cGAS (cyclic GMP-AMP synthase) and its adaptor protein STING (Stimulator of Interferon Genes) detect the presence of cytosolic DNA as a sign of infection or damage. In cancer cells, this pathway can be activated through persistent DNA damage and chromosomal instability, which results in the formation of micronuclei and the exposure of DNA fragments to the cytosol. DNA damage from radio- or chemotherapy can further activate DNA sensing responses, which may occur in the cancer cells themselves or in stromal and immune cells in the tumour microenvironment (TME). cGAS-STING signalling results in the production of type I interferons, which have been linked to immune cell infiltration in 'hot' tumours that are susceptible to immunosurveillance and immunotherapy approaches. However, recent research has highlighted the complex nature of STING signalling, with tumours having developed mechanisms to evade and hijack this signalling pathway for their own benefit. In this mini-review we will explore how cGAS-STING signalling in different cells in the TME can promote both anti-tumour and pro-tumour responses. This includes the role of type I interferons and the second messenger cGAMP in the TME, and the influence of STING signalling on local immune cell populations. We examine how alternative signalling cascades downstream of STING can promote chronic interferon signalling, the activation of the transcription factor nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells (NF-κB) and the production of inflammatory cytokines, which can have pro-tumour functions. An in-depth understanding of DNA sensing in different cell contexts will be required to harness the anti-tumour functions of STING signalling.