Vesicular trafficking permits evasion of cGAS/ STING surveillance during initial human papillomavirus infection

Brittany L. Uhlorn, Robert Jackson, Shuaizhi Li, Shauna M. Bratton, Koenraad van Doorslaer, Samuel K. Campos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Oncogenic human papillomaviruses (HPVs) replicate in differentiating epithelium, causing 5% of cancers worldwide. Like most other DNA viruses, HPV infection initiates after trafficking viral genome (vDNA) to host cell nuclei. Cells possess innate surveillance pathways to detect microbial components or physiological stresses often associated with microbial infections. One of these pathways, cGAS/STING, induces IRF3-dependent antiviral interferon (IFN) responses upon detection of cytosolic DNA. Virion-associated vDNA can activate cGAS/STING during initial viral entry and uncoating/trafficking, and thus cGAS/STING is an obstacle to many DNA viruses. HPV has a unique vesicular trafficking pathway compared to many other DNA viruses. As the capsid uncoats within acidic endosomal compartments, minor capsid protein L2 protrudes across vesicular membranes to facilitate transport of vDNA to the Golgi. L2/vDNA resides within the Golgi lumen until G2/M, whereupon vesicular L2/vDNA traffics along spindle microtubules, tethering to chromosomes to access daughter cell nuclei. L2/vDNA-containing vesicles likely remain intact until G1, following nuclear envelope reformation. We hypothesize that this unique vesicular trafficking protects HPV from cGAS/STING surveillance. Here, we investigate cGAS/STING responses to HPV infection. DNA transfection resulted in acute cGAS/STING activation and downstream IFN responses. In contrast, HPV infection elicited minimal cGAS/STING and IFN responses. To determine the role of vesicular trafficking in cGAS/STING evasion, we forced premature viral penetration of vesicular membranes with membrane-perturbing cationic lipids. Such treatment renders a non-infectious trafficking-defective mutant HPV infectious, yet susceptible to cGAS/STING detection. Overall, HPV evades cGAS/STING by its unique subcellular trafficking, a property that may contribute to establishment of infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1009028
JournalPLoS pathogens
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 30 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Virology


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