Cyclic GMP-AMP Synthase Is an Innate Immune Sensor of HIV and Other Retroviruses

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Science  23 Aug 2013:
Vol. 341, Issue 6148, pp. 903-906
DOI: 10.1126/science.1240933

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HIV Detection Is a (c)GAS

Despite it being one of the most highly studied viruses, there are still many unknowns when it comes to HIV—including how it triggers the innate immune response. Gao et al. (p. 903, published 8 August) now demonstrate that the DNA sensor cyclic GMP-AMP synthase (cGAS) detects HIV infection. Reverse-transcribed HIV DNA triggers cGAS and downstream activation of antiviral immunity. Detection of HIV, as well as the retroviruses simian immunodeficiency virus and murine leukemia virus, was abrogated in mouse and human cells deficient in cGAS—suggesting that cGAS may be a critical activator of innate immunity in response to retroviral infection.


Retroviruses, including HIV, can activate innate immune responses, but the host sensors for retroviruses are largely unknown. Here we show that HIV infection activates cyclic guanosine monophosphate–adenosine monophosphate (cGAMP) synthase (cGAS) to produce cGAMP, which binds to and activates the adaptor protein STING to induce type I interferons and other cytokines. Inhibitors of HIV reverse transcriptase, but not integrase, abrogated interferon-β induction by the virus, suggesting that the reverse-transcribed HIV DNA triggers the innate immune response. Knockout or knockdown of cGAS in mouse or human cell lines blocked cytokine induction by HIV, murine leukemia virus, and simian immunodeficiency virus. These results indicate that cGAS is an innate immune sensor of HIV and other retroviruses.

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