Stimulator of interferon genes (STING) is essential for the type I interferon response induced by microbial DNA from virus or self-DNA from mitochondria/nuclei. In response to emergence of such DNAs in the cytosol, STING translocates from the endoplasmic reticulum to the Golgi, and activates TANK-binding kinase 1 (TBK1) at the trans-Golgi network (TGN). Activated TBK1 then phosphorylates STING at Ser365, generating an interferon regulatory factor 3-docking site on STING. How this reaction proceeds specifically at the TGN remains poorly understood. Here we report a cell-free reaction in which endogenous STING is phosphorylated by TBK1. The reaction utilizes microsomal membrane fraction prepared from TBK1-knockout cells and recombinant TBK1. We observed agonist-, TBK1-, “ER-to-Golgi” traffic-, and palmitoylation-dependent phosphorylation of STING at Ser365, mirroring the nature of STING phosphorylation in vivo. Treating the microsomal membrane fraction with sphingomyelinase or methyl-β-cyclodextrin, an agent to extract cholesterol from membranes, suppressed the phosphorylation of STING by TBK1. Given the enrichment of sphingomyelin and cholesterol in the TGN, these results may provide the molecular basis underlying the specific phosphorylation reaction of STING at the TGN.
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