Skip to main content

Small molecule inhibition of human cGAS reduces total cGAMP output and cytokine expression in cells


Wiser CCaroline , Kim BByungil , Vincent JJessica , Ascano MManuel . Scientific reports. 2020 05 05; 10(1). 7604


The cGAS-STING pathway is a major mechanism that mammalian cells utilize to detect cytoplasmic dsDNA from incoming viruses, bacteria, or self. CYCLIC GMP-AMP SYNTHASE (cGAS) is the sensor protein that directly binds dsDNAs. cGAS synthesizes cyclic GMP-AMP (cGAMP), which binds to the adaptor STIMULATOR OF INTERFERON GENES (STING), activating an INTERFERON REGULATORY FACTOR 3 (IRF3)-mediated immune response. Constitutive activation can result in interferonopathies such as Aicardi-Goutieres Syndrome (AGS) or other lupus-like autoimmune disorders. While inhibitors targeting mouse or human cGAS have been reported, the identification of a small molecule that targets both homologs of cGAS has been challenging. Here, we show that RU.521 is capable of potently and selectively inhibiting mouse and human cGAS in cell lines and human primary cells. This inhibitory activity requires the presence of cGAS, but it cannot suppress an immune response in cells activated by RNA, Toll-like receptor ligands, cGAMP, or recombinant interferon. Importantly, when RU.521 is applied to cells, the production of dsDNA-induced intracellular cGAMP is suppressed in a dose-dependent manner. Our work validates the use of RU.521 for probing DNA-induced innate immune responses and underscores its potential as an ideal scaffold towards pre-clinical development, given its potency against human and mouse cGAS.