STING Specifies IRF3 Phosphorylation by TBK1 in the Cytosolic DNA Signaling Pathway

Sci. Signal., 6 March 2012
Vol. 5, Issue 214, p. ra20
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2002521

STING Specifies IRF3 Phosphorylation by TBK1 in the Cytosolic DNA Signaling Pathway

  1. Yasuo Tanaka1 and
  2. Zhijian J. Chen1,2,*
  1. 1Department of Molecular Biology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX 75390–9148, USA.
  2. 2Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX 75390–9148, USA.
  1. *To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: zhijian.chen{at}


Cytosolic double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) stimulates the production of type I interferon (IFN) through the endoplasmic reticulum (ER)–resident adaptor protein STING (stimulator of IFN genes), which activates the transcription factor interferon regulatory factor 3 (IRF3); however, how STING activates IRF3 is unclear. Here, we showed that STING stimulates phosphorylation of IRF3 by the kinase TBK1 (TANK-binding kinase 1) in an in vitro reconstitution system. With this system, we identified a carboxyl-terminal region of STING that was both necessary and sufficient to activate TBK1 and stimulate the phosphorylation of IRF3. We also found that STING interacted with both TBK1 and IRF3 and that mutations in STING that selectively disrupted its binding to IRF3 abrogated phosphorylation of IRF3 without impairing the activation of TBK1. These results suggest that STING functions as a scaffold protein to specify and promote the phosphorylation of IRF3 by TBK1. This scaffolding function of STING (and possibly of other adaptor proteins) may explain why IRF3 is activated in only a subset of signaling pathways that activate TBK1.


Y. Tanaka and Z. J. Chen, STING Specifies IRF3 Phosphorylation by TBK1 in the Cytosolic DNA Signaling Pathway. Sci. Signal. 5, ra20 (2012).

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