The mechanisms underlying susceptibility to recurrent herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) meningitis remain incompletely understood. In a patient experiencing multiple episodes of HSV-2 meningitis, we identified a monoallelic variant in the IKBKE gene, which encodes the IKKε kinase involved in induction of antiviral IFN genes. Patient cells displayed impaired induction of IFN-β1 (IFNB1) expression upon infection with HSV-2 or stimulation with double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) and failed to induce phosphorylation of STING, an activation marker of the DNA-sensing cyclic GMP-AMP synthase/stimulator of IFN genes (cGAS/STING) pathway. The patient allele encoded a truncated IKKε protein with loss of kinase activity and also capable of exerting dominant-negative activity. In stem cell–derived microglia, HSV-2–induced expression of IFNB1 was dependent on cGAS, TANK binding kinase 1 (TBK1), and IKBKE, but not TLR3, and supernatants from HSV-2–treated microglia exerted IKBKE-dependent type I IFN–mediated antiviral activity upon neurons. Reintroducing wild-type IKBKE into patient cells rescued IFNB1 induction following treatment with HSV-2 or dsDNA and restored antiviral activity. Collectively, we identify IKKε to be important for protection against HSV-2 meningitis and suggest a nonredundant role for the cGAS/STING pathway in human antiviral immunity.
Azadeh Reyahi, Marie Studahl, Morten K. Skouboe, Stefanie Fruhwürth, Ryo Narita, Fanghui Ren, Moa Bjerhem Viklund, Marie B. Iversen, Mette Christiansen, Alexandra Svensson, Trine H. Mogensen, Kristina Eriksson, Søren R. Paludan