Ancient Origin of cGAS-STING Reveals Mechanism of Universal 2',3' cGAMP Signaling

Philip J. Kranzusch, Stephen C. Wilson, Amy S.Y. Lee, James M. Berger, Jennifer A. Doudna, Russell E. Vance

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

104 Scopus citations


In humans, the cGAS-STING immunity pathway signals in response to cytosolic DNA via 2',3' cGAMP, a cyclic dinucleotide (CDN) second messenger containing mixed 2'-5' and 3'-5' phosphodiester bonds. Prokaryotes also produce CDNs, but these are exclusively 3' linked, and thus the evolutionary origins of human 2',3' cGAMP signaling are unknown. Here we illuminate the ancient origins of human cGAMP signaling by discovery of a functional cGAS-STING pathway in Nematostella vectensis, an anemone species >500 million years diverged from humans. Anemone cGAS appears to produce a 3',3' CDN that anemone STING recognizes through nucleobase-specific contacts not observed in human STING. Nevertheless, anemone STING binds mixed-linkage 2',3' cGAMP indistinguishably from human STING, trapping a unique structural conformation not induced by 3',3' CDNs. These results reveal that human mixed-linkage cGAMP achieves universal signaling by exploiting a deeply conserved STING conformational intermediate, providing critical insight for therapeutic targeting of the STING pathway. Kranzusch and Wilson et al. use structural and biochemical approaches to characterize human and anemone cGAS-STING immune pathways, demonstrating that the product of human cGAS is a potent STING activator because it targets an ancient, conserved, intermediate conformation of STING.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)891-903
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular cell
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 17 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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