Topoisomerase 1 inhibition promotes cyclic GMP-AMP synthase-dependent antiviral responses

Geneviève Pépin, Charlotte Nejad, Jonathan Ferrand, Belinda J. Thomas, H. James Stunden, Elaine Sanij, Chwan Hong Foo, Cameron R. Stewart, Jason E. Cain, Philip G. Bardin, Bryan R.G. Williams, Michael P. Gantier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Inflammatory responses, while essential for pathogen clearance, can also be deleterious to the host. Chemical inhibition of topoisomerase 1 (Top1) by low-dose camptothecin (CPT) can suppress transcriptional induction of antiviral and inflammatory genes and protect animals from excessive and damaging inflammatory responses. We describe the unexpected finding that minor DNA damage from topoisomerase 1 inhibition with low-dose CPT can trigger a strong antiviral immune response through cyclic GMP-AMP synthase (cGAS) detection of cytoplasmic DNA. This argues against CPT having only anti-inflammatory activity. Furthermore, expression of the simian virus 40 (SV40) large T antigen was paramount to the proinflammatory antiviral activity of CPT, as it potentiated cytoplasmic DNA leakage and subsequent cGAS recruitment in human and mouse cell lines. This work suggests that the capacity of Top1 inhibitors to blunt inflammatory responses can be counteracted by viral oncogenes and that this should be taken into account for their therapeutic development.IMPORTANCE Recent studies suggest that low-dose DNA-damaging compounds traditionally used in cancer therapy can have opposite effects on antiviral responses, either suppressing (with the example of CPT) or potentiating (with the example of doxorubicin) them. Our work demonstrates that the minor DNA damage promoted by low-dose CPT can also trigger strong antiviral responses, dependent on the presence of viral oncogenes. Taken together, these results call for caution in the therapeutic use of low-dose chemotherapy agents to modulate antiviral responses in humans.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01611-17
Number of pages9
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2017


  • Camptothecin
  • CGAS
  • DNA damage
  • Simian virus 40
  • Topoisomerase 1

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