Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are widely used in clinical settings to treat tissue injuries and autoimmune disorders due to their multipotentiality and immunomodulation. Long-term observations reveal several complications after MSCs infusion, especially herpesviral infection. However, the mechanism of host defense against herpesviruses in MSCs remains largely unknown. Here we showed that murine gammaherpesvirus-68 (MHV-68), which is genetically and biologically related to human gammaherpesviruses, efficiently infected MSCs both in vitro and in vivo. Cytosolic DNA sensor cyclic GMP-AMP synthase (cGAS) was identified as the sensor of MHV-68 in MSCs for the first time. Moreover, the cytosolic DNA sensing pathway mediated a potent anti-herpesviral effect through the adaptor STING and downstream kinase TBK1. Furthermore, blockade of IFN signaling suggested that cytosolic DNA sensing triggered both IFN-dependent and-independent anti-herpesviral responses. Our findings demonstrate that cGAS-STING mediates innate immunity to gammaherpesvirus infection in MSCs, which may provide a clue to develop therapeutic strategy.
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