Constitutively active STING causes neuroinflammation and degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in mice

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Stimulator of interferon genes (STING) is activated after detection of cytoplasmic dsDNA by cGAS (cyclic GMP-AMP synthase) as part of the innate immunity defence against viral pathogens. STING binds TANK-binding kinase 1 (TBK1). TBK1 mutations are associated with familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and the STING pathway has been implicated in the pathogenesis of further neurodegenerative diseases. To test whether STING activation is sufficient to induce neurodegeneration, we analysed a mouse model that expresses the constitutively active STING variant N153S. In this model, we focused on dopaminergic neurons, which are particularly sensitive to stress and represent a circumscribed population that can be precisely quantified. In adult mice expressing N153S STING, the number of dopaminergic neurons was smaller than in controls, as was the density of dopaminergic axon terminals and the concentration of dopamine in the striatum. We also observed alpha-synuclein pathology and a lower density of synaptic puncta. Neuroinflammation was quantified by staining astroglia and microglia, by measuring mRNAs, proteins and nuclear translocation of transcription factors. These neuroinflammatory markers were already elevated in juvenile mice although at this age the number of dopaminergic neurons was still unaffected, thus preceding the degeneration of dopaminergic neurons. More neuroinflammatory markers were blunted in mice deficient for inflammasomes than in mice deficient for signalling by type I interferons. Neurodegeneration, however, was blunted in both mice. Collectively, these findings demonstrate that chronic activation of the STING pathway is sufficient to cause degeneration of dopaminergic neurons. Targeting the STING pathway could therefore be beneficial in Parkinson's disease and further neurodegenerative diseases.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere81943
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2022

External IDs

PubMedCentral PMC9767458
Scopus 85141705573
WOS 000901779000001
ORCID /0000-0002-3188-8431/work/142251787
ORCID /0000-0002-2387-526X/work/150328923


Research priority areas of TU Dresden

Subject groups, research areas, subject areas according to Destatis


  • Mice, Animals, Dopaminergic Neurons/metabolism, Neuroinflammatory Diseases, Parkinson Disease/genetics, Neurodegenerative Diseases/pathology, Microglia/metabolism, Innate immunity, Neuroinflammation, Inflammasome, Synuclein, Parkinson, Mouse, Neurodegeneration