Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of Virology


Geisel School of Medicine


STING is a protein in the cytosolic DNA and cyclic dinucleotide sensor pathway that is critical for the initiation of innate responses to infection by various pathogens. Consistent with this, herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) causes invariable and rapid lethality in STING-deficient (STING(-/-)) mice following intravenous (i.v.) infection. In this study, using real-time bioluminescence imaging and virological assays, as expected, we demonstrated that STING(-/-) mice support greater replication and spread in ocular tissues and the nervous system. In contrast, they did not succumb to challenge via the corneal route even with high titers of a virus that was routinely lethal to STING(-/-) mice by the i.v. route. Corneally infected STING(-/-) mice also showed increased periocular disease and increased corneal and trigeminal ganglia titers, although there was no difference in brain titers. They also showed elevated expression of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) and CXCL9 relative to control mice but surprisingly modest changes in type I interferon expression. Finally, we also showed that HSV strains lacking the ability to counter autophagy and the PKR-driven antiviral state had near-wild-type virulence following intracerebral infection of STING(-/-) mice. Together, these data show that while STING is an important component of host resistance to HSV in the cornea, its previously shown immutable role in mediating host survival by the i.v. route was not recapitulated following a mucosal infection route. Furthermore, our data are consistent with the idea that HSV counters STING-mediated induction of the antiviral state and autophagy response, both of which are critical factors for survival following direct infection of the nervous system.