Human dengue viruses emerged from primate reservoirs, yet paradoxically dengue does not reach high titers in primate models. This presents a unique opportunity to examine the genetics of spillover versus reservoir hosts. The dengue virus 2 (DENV2) - encoded protease cleaves human STING, reducing type I interferon production and boosting viral titers in humans. We find that both human and sylvatic (reservoir) dengue viruses universally cleave human STING, but not the STING of primates implicated as reservoir species. The special ability of dengue to cleave STING is thus specific to humans and a few closely related ape species. Conversion of residues 78/79 to the human-encoded 'RG' renders all primate (and mouse) STINGs sensitive to viral cleavage. Dengue viruses may have evolved to increase viral titers in the dense and vast human population, while maintaining decreased titers and pathogenicity in the more rare animals that serve as their sustaining reservoir in nature.
Stabell, Alex C; Meyerson, Nicholas R; Gullberg, Rebekah C; Gilchrist, Alison R; Webb, Kristofor J; Old, William M; Perera, Rushika; and Sawyer, Sara L, "Dengue viruses cleave STING in humans but not in nonhuman primates, their presumed natural reservoir." (2018). Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology Faculty Contributions. 76.