Type I interferons (T1-IFN) are critical in the innate immune response, acting upon infected and uninfected cells to initiate an antiviral state by expressing genes that inhibit multiple stages of the lifecycle of many viruses. T1-IFN triggers the production of Interferon-Stimulated Genes (ISGs), activating an antiviral program that reduces virus replication. The importance of the T1-IFN response is highlighted by the evolution of viral evasion strategies to inhibit the production or action of T1-IFN in virus-infected cells. T1-IFN is produced via activation of pathogen sensors within infected cells, a process that is targeted by virus-encoded immunomodulatory molecules. This is probably best exemplified by the prototypic poxvirus, Vaccinia virus (VACV), which uses at least 6 different mechanisms to completely block the production of T1-IFN within infected cells in vitro. Yet, mice lacking aspects of T1-IFN signaling are often more susceptible to infection with many viruses, including VACV, than wild-type mice. How can these opposing findings be rationalized? The cytosolic DNA sensor cGAS has been implicated in immunity to VACV, but has yet to be linked to the production of T1-IFN in response to VACV infection. Indeed, there are two VACV-encoded proteins that effectively prevent cGAS-mediated activation of T1-IFN. We find that the majority of VACV-infected cells in vivo do not produce T1-IFN, but that a small subset of VACV-infected cells in vivo utilize cGAS to sense VACV and produce T1-IFN to protect infected mice. The protective effect of T1-IFN is not mediated via ISG-mediated control of virus replication. Rather, T1-IFN drives increased expression of CCL4, which recruits inflammatory monocytes that constrain the VACV lesion in a virus replication-independent manner by limiting spread within the tissue. Our findings have broad implications in our understanding of pathogen detection and viral evasion in vivo, and highlight a novel immune strategy to protect infected tissue.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology