Nuclear sensing of viral DNA has emerged as an essential step in innate immune responses against herpesviruses. Here, we provide mechanistic insight into host recognition of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) and subsequent immune evasion by this prominent DNA virus. We establish that the interferon-inducible protein IFI16 acts as a nuclear DNA sensor following HCMV infection, binding viral DNA and triggering expression of antiviral cytokines via the STING-TBK1-IRF3 signaling pathway. The HCMV tegument protein pUL83 inhibits this response by interacting with the IFI16 pyrin domain, blocking its oligomerization upon DNA sensing and subsequent immune signals. pUL83 disrupts IFI16 by concerted action of its N- and C-terminal domains, in which an evolutionarily conserved N-terminal pyrin association domain (PAD) binds IFI16. Additionally, phosphorylation of the N-terminal domain modulates pUL83-mediated inhibition of pyrin aggregation. Collectively, our data elucidate the interplay between host DNA sensing and HCMV immune evasion, providing targets for restoring antiviral immunity.
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