Infoscience

Review

Induction of type I IFNs by intracellular DNA-sensing pathways

A successful antimicrobial immune response involves the coordinate action of cells and soluble factors, with the cytokine family of type I interferons (IFNs) having a central role. Type I IFNs are not only crucial in conferring immediate antimicrobial, most importantly antiviral effects, but they also have an essential role in bridging the innate with the adaptive immune response. Therefore, production of these key cytokines must be tightly controlled. To this effect the host has evolved a set of pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) that reliably and specifically detect the presence of microbial pathogens before mounting an IFN response. Most PRR pathways that are known to induce type I IFNs are triggered upon recognition of nucleic acids. This mode of sensing is not straightforward, as large amounts of RNA and DNA are also present within the host. Nevertheless, in some cases distinct molecular features that are present within foreign nucleic acids but absent in endogenous nucleic acids, allow the host to reliably discriminate between 'self' and 'non-self'. At the same time, compartmentalization of PRRs within subcellular organelles that are usually devoid of host nucleic acids, but are sites of pathogen localization, is another principle that enables the host to distinguish self from non-self. The latter mode of sensing applies to the detection of microbial DNA within the cytoplasm, a compartment in which host DNAs are usually not present. Despite the past years' tremendous progress in the field of innate immunity, our understanding of cytoplasmic DNA sensing mechanisms is only beginning to form/take form. In this review, we outline the recent advancements in the elucidation of intracellular DNA-sensing pathways and discuss the future directions of this emerging field.

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