A base-line cellular antiviral state is maintained by cGAS and its most frequent naturally occurring variant rs610913
Upon recognition of aberrantly located DNA, the innate immune sensor cGAS activates STING/IRF-3-driven antiviral responses. Here we characterized the ability of a specific variant of the cGAS-encoding gene MB21D1, rs610913, to alter cGAS-mediated DNA sensing and viral infection. rs610913 is a frequent G>T polymorphism resulting in a P261H exchange in the cGAS protein. Data from the International Collaboration for the Genomics of HIV suggested that rs610913 nominally associates with HIV-1
... tion in vivo. Molecular modeling of cGAS(P261H) hinted towards the possibility for an additional binding site for a potential cellular co-factor in cGAS dimers. However, cGAS(WT) or cGAS(P261H)-reconstituted THP-1 cGAS KO cells shared steady-state expression of interferon-stimulated genes (ISGs), as opposed to cells expressing the enzymatically inactive cGAS(G212A/S213A). Accordingly, cGAS(WT) and cGAS(P261H) cells were less susceptible to lentiviral transduction and infection with HIV-1, HSV-1, and Chikungunya virus as compared to cGAS KO- or cGAS(G212A/S213A) cells. Upon DNA challenge, innate immune activation appeared to be mildly reduced upon expression of cGAS(P261H) compared to cGAS(WT). Finally, DNA challenge of PBMCs from donors homozygously expressing rs610913 provoked a trend towards a slightly reduced type I IFN response as compared to PBMCs from GG donors. Taken together, the steady-state activity of cGAS maintains a base-line antiviral state rendering cells more refractory to ISG-sensitive viral infections. Even though rs610913 failed to grossly differ phenotypically from the wild-type gene, its expression potentially results in a slightly altered susceptibility to viral infections in vivo.