Immune sensing of DNA is critical for antiviral immunity but can also trigger autoimmune diseases such as lupus erythematosus (LE). Here we have provided evidence for the involvement of a damage-associated DNA modification in the detection of cytosolic DNA. The oxidized base 8-hydroxyguanosine (8-OHG), a marker of oxidative damage in DNA, potentiated cytosolic immune recognition by decreasing its susceptibility to 3' repair exonuclease 1 (TREX1)-mediated degradation. Oxidizative modifications arose physiologically in pathogen DNA during lysosomal reactive oxygen species (ROS) exposure, as well as in neutrophil extracellular trap (NET) DNA during the oxidative burst. 8-OHG was also abundant in UV-exposed skin lesions of LE patients and colocalized with type I interferon (IFN). Injection of oxidized DNA in the skin of lupus-prone mice induced lesions that closely matched respective lesions in patients. Thus, oxidized DNA represents a prototypic damage-associated molecular pattern (DAMP) with important implications for infection, sterile inflammation, and autoimmunity.