A substantial fraction of cancers evade immune detection by silencing Stimulator of Interferon Genes (STING)-Interferon (IFN) signaling. Therapeutic reactivation of this program via STING agonists, epigenetic, or DNA-damaging therapies can restore antitumor immunity in multiple preclinical models. Here we show that adaptive induction of three prime exonuclease 1 (TREX1) restrains STING-dependent nucleic acid sensing in cancer cells via its catalytic function in degrading cytosolic DNA. Cancer cell TREX1 expression is coordinately induced with STING by autocrine IFN and downstream STAT1, preventing signal amplification. TREX1 inactivation in cancer cells thus unleashes STING–IFN signaling, recruiting T and natural killer (NK) cells, sensitizing to NK cell–derived IFNγ, and cooperating with programmed cell death protein 1 blockade in multiple mouse tumor models to enhance immunogenicity. Targeting TREX1 may represent a complementary strategy to induce cytosolic DNA and amplify cancer cell STING–IFN signaling as a means to sensitize tumors to immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) and/or cell therapies.

Significance:

STING–IFN signaling in cancer cells promotes tumor cell immunogenicity. Inactivation of the DNA exonuclease TREX1, which is adaptively upregulated to limit pathway activation in cancer cells, recruits immune effector cells and primes NK cell–mediated killing. Targeting TREX1 has substantial therapeutic potential to amplify cancer cell immunogenicity and overcome ICB resistance.

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