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1.  Inflammasome Components Coordinate Autophagy and Pyroptosis as Macrophage Responses to Infection 
mBio  2013;4(1):e00620-12.
When microbes contaminate the macrophage cytoplasm, leukocytes undergo a proinflammatory death that is initiated by nucleotide-binding-domain-, leucine-rich-repeat-containing proteins (NLR proteins) that bind and activate caspase-1. We report that these inflammasome components also regulate autophagy, a vesicular pathway to eliminate cytosolic debris. In response to infection with flagellate Legionella pneumophila, C57BL/6J mouse macrophages equipped with caspase-1 and the NLR proteins NAIP5 and NLRC4 stimulated autophagosome turnover. A second trigger of inflammasome assembly, K+ efflux, also rapidly activated autophagy in macrophages that produced caspase-1. Autophagy protects infected macrophages from pyroptosis, since caspase-1-dependent cell death occurred more frequently when autophagy was dampened pharmacologically by either 3-methyladenine or an inhibitor of the Atg4 protease. Accordingly, in addition to coordinating pyroptosis, both (pro-) caspase-1 protein and NLR components of inflammasomes equip macrophages to recruit autophagy, a disposal pathway that raises the threshold of contaminants necessary to trigger proinflammatory leukocyte death.
IMPORTANCE An exciting development in the innate-immunity field is the recognition that macrophages enlist autophagy to protect their cytoplasm from infection. Nutrient deprivation has long been known to induce autophagy; how infection triggers this disposal pathway is an active area of research. Autophagy is encountered by many of the intracellular pathogens that are known to trigger pyroptosis, an inflammatory cell death initiated when nucleotide-binding-domain-, leucine-rich-repeat-containing proteins (NLR proteins) activate caspase-1 within inflammasome complexes. Therefore, we tested the hypothesis that NLR proteins and caspase-1 also coordinate autophagy as a barrier to cytosolic infection. By exploiting classical bacterial and mouse genetics and kinetic assays of autophagy, we demonstrate for the first time that, when confronted with cytosolic contamination, primary mouse macrophages rely not only on the NLR proteins NAIP5 and NLRC4 but also on (pro-)caspase-1 protein to mount a rapid autophagic response that wards off proinflammatory cell death.
An exciting development in the innate-immunity field is the recognition that macrophages enlist autophagy to protect their cytoplasm from infection. Nutrient deprivation has long been known to induce autophagy; how infection triggers this disposal pathway is an active area of research. Autophagy is encountered by many of the intracellular pathogens that are known to trigger pyroptosis, an inflammatory cell death initiated when nucleotide-binding-domain-, leucine-rich-repeat-containing proteins (NLR proteins) activate caspase-1 within inflammasome complexes. Therefore, we tested the hypothesis that NLR proteins and caspase-1 also coordinate autophagy as a barrier to cytosolic infection. By exploiting classical bacterial and mouse genetics and kinetic assays of autophagy, we demonstrate for the first time that, when confronted with cytosolic contamination, primary mouse macrophages rely not only on the NLR proteins NAIP5 and NLRC4 but also on (pro-)caspase-1 protein to mount a rapid autophagic response that wards off proinflammatory cell death.
PMCID: PMC3573666  PMID: 23404401
2.  Innate Immune Sensing of Modified Vaccinia Virus Ankara (MVA) Is Mediated by TLR2-TLR6, MDA-5 and the NALP3 Inflammasome 
PLoS Pathogens  2009;5(6):e1000480.
Modified vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA) is an attenuated double-stranded DNA poxvirus currently developed as a vaccine vector against HIV/AIDS. Profiling of the innate immune responses induced by MVA is essential for the design of vaccine vectors and for anticipating potential adverse interactions between naturally acquired and vaccine-induced immune responses. Here we report on innate immune sensing of MVA and cytokine responses in human THP-1 cells, primary human macrophages and mouse bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMDMs). The innate immune responses elicited by MVA in human macrophages were characterized by a robust chemokine production and a fairly weak pro-inflammatory cytokine response. Analyses of the cytokine production profile of macrophages isolated from knockout mice deficient in Toll-like receptors (TLRs) or in the adapter molecules MyD88 and TRIF revealed a critical role for TLR2, TLR6 and MyD88 in the production of IFNβ-independent chemokines. MVA induced a marked up-regulation of the expression of RIG-I like receptors (RLR) and the IPS-1 adapter (also known as Cardif, MAVS or VISA). Reduced expression of RIG-I, MDA-5 and IPS-1 by shRNAs indicated that sensing of MVA by RLR and production of IFNβ and IFNβ-dependent chemokines was controlled by the MDA-5 and IPS-1 pathway in the macrophage. Crosstalk between TLR2-MyD88 and the NALP3 inflammasome was essential for expression and processing of IL-1β. Transcription of the Il1b gene was markedly impaired in TLR2−/− and MyD88−/− BMDM, whereas mature and secreted IL-1β was massively reduced in NALP3−/− BMDMs or in human THP-1 macrophages with reduced expression of NALP3, ASC or caspase-1 by shRNAs. Innate immune sensing of MVA and production of chemokines, IFNβ and IL-1β by macrophages is mediated by the TLR2-TLR6-MyD88, MDA-5-IPS-1 and NALP3 inflammasome pathways. Delineation of the host response induced by MVA is critical for improving our understanding of poxvirus antiviral escape mechanisms and for designing new MVA vaccine vectors with improved immunogenicity.
Author Summary
Modified vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA) is a highly attenuated, replication-deficient, poxvirus currently developed as a vaccine vector against a broad spectrum of infectious diseases including HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. It is well known that robust activation of innate immunity is essential to achieve an efficient vaccine response, and that poxviruses have developed numerous strategies to block the innate immune response. Yet, the precise mechanisms underlying innate immune sensing of MVA are poorly characterized. Toll-like receptors (TLR), RIG-I-like receptors (RLR) and NOD-like receptors (NLR) are families of membrane-bound and cytosolic sensors that detect the presence of microbial products and initiate host innate and adaptive immune responses. Here, we report the first comprehensive study of MVA sensing by innate immune cells, demonstrating that TLR2-TLR6-MyD88, MDA-5-IPS-1 and NALP3 inflammasome pathways play specific and coordinated roles in regulating cytokine, chemokine and interferon response to MVA poxvirus infection. Delineation of the pathways involved in the sensing of MVA by the host could help designing modified vectors with increased immunogenicity, which would be of particular importance since MVA is considered as a leading vaccine for HIV/AIDS vaccine following the recent failure of an adenovirus-mediated HIV vaccine trial.
PMCID: PMC2691956  PMID: 19543380
3.  ATP Release from Dying Autophagic Cells and Their Phagocytosis Are Crucial for Inflammasome Activation in Macrophages 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e40069.
Pathogen-activated and damage-associated molecular patterns activate the inflammasome in macrophages. We report that mouse macrophages release IL-1β while co-incubated with pro-B (Ba/F3) cells dying, as a result of IL-3 withdrawal, by apoptosis with autophagy, but not when they are co-incubated with living, apoptotic, necrotic or necrostatin-1 treated cells. NALP3-deficient macrophages display reduced IL-1β secretion, which is also inhibited in macrophages deficient in caspase-1 or pre-treated with its inhibitor. This finding demonstrates that the inflammasome is activated during phagocytosis of dying autophagic cells. We show that activation of NALP3 depends on phagocytosis of dying cells, ATP release through pannexin-1 channels of dying autophagic cells, P2X7 purinergic receptor activation, and on consequent potassium efflux. Dying autophagic Ba/F3 cells injected intraperitoneally in mice recruit neutrophils and thereby induce acute inflammation. These findings demonstrate that NALP3 performs key upstream functions in inflammasome activation in mouse macrophages engulfing dying autophagic cells, and that these functions lead to pro-inflammatory responses.
PMCID: PMC3386917  PMID: 22768222
4.  Neuropeptides Contribute to Peripheral Nociceptive Sensitization by Regulating Interleukin-1 Beta Production in Keratinocytes 
Anesthesia and analgesia  2011;113(1):175-183.
It is increasingly evident that there is a close connection between the generation of cutaneous inflammatory cytokines and elevated neuropeptide signaling in complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) patients. Previously we observed in the rat tibia fracture model of CRPS that activation of caspase-1 containing NALP1 inflammasomes was required for interleukin (IL)-1β production in keratinocytes, and that administration of an IL-1 receptor antagonist (anakinra) reduced the fracture-induced hindpaw mechanical allodynia. We therefore hypothesized that neuropeptides lead to nociceptive sensitization through activation of the skin’s innate immune system by enhancing inflammasome expression and caspase-1 activity.
We determined whether the neuropeptides substance P (SP) and calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) require IL-1β in order to support nociceptive sensitization when injected into mouse hindpaw skin by testing mechanical allodynia. We then investigated whether these neuropeptides could stimulate production of IL-1β in a keratinocyte cell line (REKs), and could increase the expression of inflammasome component proteins including NALP1 and caspase-1. Finally, we determined if neuropeptide-stimulated IL-1β production required activation of caspase-1 and cathepsin B.
Intraplantar injections of SP and CGRP lead to allodynia in mouse hindpaws but CGRP was approximately 10-fold less potent in causing this response. Moreover, systemic administration of the IL-1 receptor (IL-1R) antagonist anakinra prevented sensitization after neuropeptide injection. Also, mouse skin keratinocytes express IL-1R which is up-regulated after local neuropeptide application. In vitro data demonstrated that both SP and CGRP increased IL-1β gene and protein expression in REKs in a dose-dependent manner. Furthermore, SP time- and dose-dependently up-regulated NALP1 and caspase-1 mRNA and protein levels in REKs. In contrast, CGRP time- and dose-dependently enhanced NALP1 and caspase-1 mRNA levels without causing a significant change in NALP1 or caspase-1 protein expression in REKs. Inhibition of caspase-1 activity using the selective inhibitor Ac-YVAD-CHO reduced SP and, less effectively, CGRP induced increases in IL-1β production in REK cells. The selective cathepsin B inhibitor CA-74Me inhibited neuropeptide induced IL-1β production in REKs as well.
Collectively, these results demonstrate that neuropeptides induce nociceptive sensitization by enhancing IL-1 β production in keratinocytes. Neuropeptides rely on both caspase-1 and cathepsin B for this enhanced production. Neuro-cutaneous signaling involving neuropeptide activation of the innate immunity may contribute to pain in CRPS patients.
PMCID: PMC3123433  PMID: 21596883
5.  Fatty Acid and Endotoxin Activate Inflammasomes in Mouse Hepatocytes that Release Danger Signals to Stimulate Immune Cells 
Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)  2011;54(1):133-144.
The pathogenesis of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and inflammasome activation involves sequential hits. The inflammasome, which cleaves pro–interleukin-1β (pro–IL-1β) into secreted IL-1β, is induced by endogenous and exogenous danger signals. Lipo-polysaccharide (LPS), a toll-like receptor 4 ligand, plays a role in NASH and also activates the inflammasome. In this study, we hypothesized that the inflammasome is activated in NASH by multiple hits involving endogenous and exogenous danger signals. Using mouse models of methionine choline–deficient (MCD) diet–induced NASH and high-fat diet–induced NASH, we found up-regulation of the inflammasome [including NACHT, LRR, and PYD domains–containing protein 3 (NALP3; cryopyrin), apoptosis-associated specklike CARD-domain containing protein, pannexin-1, and pro–caspase-1] at the messenger RNA (mRNA) level increased caspase-1 activity, and mature IL-1β protein levels in mice with steatohepatitis in comparison with control livers. There was no inflammasome activation in mice with only steatosis. The MCD diet sensitized mice to LPS-induced increases in NALP3, pannexin-1, IL-1β mRNA, and mature IL-1β protein levels in the liver. We demonstrate for the first time that inflammasome activation occurs in isolated hepatocytes in steatohepatitis. Our novel data show that the saturated fatty acid (FA) palmitic acid (PA) activates the inflammasome and induces sensitization to LPS-induced IL-1β release in hepatocytes. Furthermore, PA triggers the release of danger signals from hepatocytes in a caspase-dependent manner. These hepatocyte-derived danger signals, in turn, activate inflammasome, IL-1β, and tumor necrosis factor α release in liver mononuclear cells.
Our novel findings indicate that saturated FAs represent an endogenous danger in the form of a first hit, up-regulate the inflammasome in NASH, and induce sensitization to a second hit with LPS for IL-β release in hepatocytes. Furthermore, hepatocytes exposed to saturated FAs release danger signals that trigger inflammasome activation in immune cells. Thus, hepatocytes play a key role in orchestrating tissue responses to danger signals in NASH.
PMCID: PMC4158408  PMID: 21488066
6.  ATP-dependent activation of an inflammasome in primary gingival epithelial cells infected by Porphyromonas gingivalis 
Cellular microbiology  2009;12(2):188-198.
Production of IL-1β typically requires two-separate signals. The first signal, from a pathogen-associated molecular pattern, promotes intracellular production of immature cytokine. The second signal, derived from a danger signal such as extracellular ATP, results in assembly of an inflammasome, activation of caspase-1, and secretion of mature cytokine. The inflammasome component, Nalp3, plays a nonredundant role in caspase-1 activation in response to ATP binding to P2X7 in macrophages. Gingival epithelial cells (GECs) are an important component of the innate-immune response to periodontal bacteria. We had shown that GECs express a functional P2X7 receptor, but the ability of GECs to secrete IL-1β during infection remained unknown. We find that GECs express a functional Nalp3-inflammasome. Treatment of GECs with LPS or infection with the periodontal pathogen, Porphyromonas gingivalis, induced expression of the il-1β gene and intracellular accumulation of IL-1β protein. However, IL-1β was not secreted unless LPS-treated or infected cells were subsequently stimulated with ATP. Conversely, caspase-1 is activated in GECs following ATP-treatment but not P. gingivalis-infection. Furthermore, depletion of Nalp3 by siRNA abrogated the ability of ATP to induce IL-1β secretion in infected-cells. The Nalp3-inflammasome is therefore a likely to be an important mediator of the inflammatory response in gingival epithelium.
PMCID: PMC2807919  PMID: 19811501
NLR; innate immunity; purinergic receptor; inflammasome; bacteria
7.  The NALP3 inflammasome is involved in neurotoxic prion peptide-induced microglial activation 
Prion diseases are neurodegenerative disorders characterized by the accumulation of an abnormal disease-associated prion protein, PrPSc. In prion-infected brains, activated microglia are often present in the vicinity of PrPSc aggregates, and microglial activation is thought to play a key role in the pathogenesis of prion diseases. Although interleukin (IL)-1β release by prion-induced microglia has been widely reported, the mechanism by which primed microglia become activated and secrete IL-1β in prion diseases has not yet been elucidated. In this study, we investigated the role of the NACHT, LRR and PYD domains-containing protein (NALP)3 inflammasome in IL-1β release from lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-primed microglia after exposure to a synthetic neurotoxic prion fragment (PrP106-126).
The inflammasome components NALP3 and apoptosis-associated speck-like protein (ASC) were knocked down by gene silencing. IL-1β production was assessed using ELISA. The mRNA expression of NALP3, ASC, and pro-inflammatory factors was measured by quantitative PCR. Western blot analysis was used to detect the protein level of NALP3, ASC, caspase-1 and nuclear factor-κB.
We found that that PrP106-126-induced IL-1β release depends on NALP3 inflammasome activation, that inflammasome activation is required for the synthesis of pro-inflammatory and chemotactic factors by PrP106-126-activated microglia, that inhibition of NF-κB activation abrogated PrP106-126-induced NALP3 upregulation, and that potassium efflux and production of reactive oxygen species were implicated in PrP106-126-induced NALP3 inflammasome activation in microglia.
We conclude that the NALP3 inflammasome is involved in neurotoxic prion peptide-induced microglial activation. To our knowledge, this is the first time that strong evidence for the involvement of NALP3 inflammasome in prion-associated inflammation has been found.
PMCID: PMC3394218  PMID: 22531291
Prion diseases; PrP106-126; NALP3 Inflammasome; IL-1β; Microglia
8.  Oxidized Mitochondrial DNA Activates the NLRP3 Inflammasome During Apoptosis 
Immunity  2012;36(3):401-414.
We report that in the presence of signal 1 (NF-κB), the NLRP3 inflammasome was activated by mitochondrial apoptotic signaling that licensed production of interleukin-1β (IL-1β). NLRP3 secondary signal activators such as ATP induced mitochondrial dysfunction and apoptosis, resulting in release of oxidized mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) into the cytosol, where it bound to and activated the NLRP3 inflammasome. The anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-2 inversely regulated mitochondrial dysfunction and NLRP3 inflammasome activation. Mitochondrial DNA directly induced NLRP3 inflammasome activation, because macrophages lacking mtDNA had severely attenuated IL-1β production, yet still underwent apoptosis. Both binding of oxidized mtDNA to the NLRP3 inflammasome and IL-1β secretion could be competitively inhibited by the oxidized nucleoside, 8-OH-dG. Thus, our data reveal that oxidized mtDNA released during programmed cell death causes activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome. These results provide a missing link between apoptosis and inflammasome activation, via binding of cytosolic oxidized mtDNA to the NLRP3 inflammasome.
PMCID: PMC3312986  PMID: 22342844
Toxicology and applied pharmacology  2011;252(3):289-297.
Acetaminophen (APAP) overdose is the leading cause of acute liver failure in the US and UK. Recent studies implied that APAP-induced injury is partially mediated by interleukin-1β (IL-1β), which can activate and recruit neutrophils, exacerbating injury. Mature IL-1β is formed by caspase-1, dependent on inflammasome activation. The objective of this investigation was to evaluate the role of the Nalp3 inflammasome on release of damage associated molecular patterns (DAMPs), hepatic neutrophil accumulation and liver injury (ALT, necrosis) after APAP overdose. Mice deficient for each component of the Nalp3 inflammasome (Caspase-1, ASC and NALP3) were treated with 300 mg/kg APAP for 24 h; these mice had similar neutrophil recruitment and liver injury as APAP-treated C57Bl/6 wildtype animals. In addition, plasma levels of DAMPs (DNA fragments, keratin-18, hypo- and hyper-acetylated forms of high mobility group box-1 protein) were similarly elevated with no significant difference between wildtype and gene knockout mice. In addition, aspirin treatment, which has been postulated to attenuate cytokine formation and the activation of the Nalp3 inflammasome after APAP, had no effect on release of DAMPs, hepatic neutrophil accumulation or liver injury. Together these data confirm the release of DAMPs and a sterile inflammatory response after APAP overdose. However, as previously reported minor endogenous formation of IL-1β and the activation of the Nalp3 inflammasome have little impact on APAP hepatotoxicity. It appears that the Nalp3 inflammasome is not a promising therapeutic target to treat APAP overdose.
PMCID: PMC3086334  PMID: 21396389
10.  Caspase-11 Activation in Response to Bacterial Secretion Systems that Access the Host Cytosol 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(6):e1003400.
Inflammasome activation is important for antimicrobial defense because it induces cell death and regulates the secretion of IL-1 family cytokines, which play a critical role in inflammatory responses. The inflammasome activates caspase-1 to process and secrete IL-1β. However, the mechanisms governing IL-1α release are less clear. Recently, a non-canonical inflammasome was described that activates caspase-11 and mediates pyroptosis and release of IL-1α and IL-1β. Caspase-11 activation in response to Gram-negative bacteria requires Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) and TIR-domain-containing adaptor-inducing interferon-β (TRIF)-dependent interferon production. Whether additional bacterial signals trigger caspase-11 activation is unknown. Many bacterial pathogens use specialized secretion systems to translocate effector proteins into the cytosol of host cells. These secretion systems can also deliver flagellin into the cytosol, which triggers caspase-1 activation and pyroptosis. However, even in the absence of flagellin, these secretion systems induce inflammasome activation and the release of IL-1α and IL-1β, but the inflammasome pathways that mediate this response are unclear. We observe rapid IL-1α and IL-1β release and cell death in response to the type IV or type III secretion systems of Legionella pneumophila and Yersinia pseudotuberculosis. Unlike IL-1β, IL-1α secretion does not require caspase-1. Instead, caspase-11 activation is required for both IL-1α secretion and cell death in response to the activity of these secretion systems. Interestingly, whereas caspase-11 promotes IL-1β release in response to the type IV secretion system through the NLRP3/ASC inflammasome, caspase-11-dependent release of IL-1α is independent of both the NAIP5/NLRC4 and NLRP3/ASC inflammasomes as well as TRIF and type I interferon signaling. Furthermore, we find both overlapping and non-redundant roles for IL-1α and IL-1β in mediating neutrophil recruitment and bacterial clearance in response to pulmonary infection by L. pneumophila. Our findings demonstrate that virulent, but not avirulent, bacteria trigger a rapid caspase-11-dependent innate immune response important for host defense.
Author Summary
The inflammasome, a multiprotein complex, is critical for host defense against bacterial infection. The inflammasome activates the host protease caspase-1 to process and secrete IL-1β. Another caspase, caspase-11, can cause cell death and IL-1α release. The bacterial signals that trigger caspase-11 activation are poorly understood. A common feature of many bacterial pathogens is the ability to inject virulence factors and other bacterial molecules into the host cell cytosol by means of a variety of virulence-associated secretion systems. These secretion systems can introduce bacterial flagellin into the host cytosol, which leads to caspase-1 activation and cell death. However, many bacteria lack or down-regulate flagellin yet still activate the inflammasome. Here, we show that the type IV secretion system of Legionella pneumophila and the type III secretion system of Yersinia pseudotuberculosis rapidly trigger caspase-11 activation in a flagellin-independent manner. Caspase-11 activation mediates two separate inflammasome pathways: one leading to IL-1β processing and secretion, and one leading to cell death and IL-1α release. Furthermore, we find these caspase-11-regulated cytokines are critical for neutrophil recruitment to the site of infection and clearance of non-flagellated Legionella in vivo. Overall, our findings show that virulent bacteria activate a rapid caspase-11-dependent immune response that plays a critical role in host defense.
PMCID: PMC3675167  PMID: 23762026
11.  Post-Translational Control of IL-1β via the Human Papillomavirus Type 16 E6 Oncoprotein: A Novel Mechanism of Innate Immune Escape Mediated by the E3-Ubiquitin Ligase E6-AP and p53 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(8):e1003536.
Infections with high-risk human papillomaviruses (HPVs) are causally involved in the development of anogenital cancer. HPVs apparently evade the innate immune response of their host cells by dysregulating immunomodulatory factors such as cytokines and chemokines, thereby creating a microenvironment that favors malignancy. One central key player in the immune surveillance interactome is interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β) which not only mediates inflammation, but also links innate and adaptive immunity. Because of its pleiotropic physiological effects, IL-1β production is tightly controlled on transcriptional, post-translational and secretory levels. Here, we describe a novel mechanism how the high-risk HPV16 E6 oncoprotein abrogates IL-1β processing and secretion in a NALP3 inflammasome-independent manner. We analyzed IL-1β regulation in immortalized keratinocytes that harbor the HPV16 E6 and/or E7 oncogenes as well as HPV-positive cervical tumor cells. While in primary and in E7-immortalized human keratinocytes the secretion of IL-1β was highly inducible upon inflammasome activation, E6-positive cells did not respond. Western blot analyses revealed a strong reduction of basal intracellular levels of pro-IL-1β that was independent of dysregulation of the NALP3 inflammasome, autophagy or lysosomal activity. Instead, we demonstrate that pro-IL-1β is degraded in a proteasome-dependent manner in E6-positive cells which is mediated via the ubiquitin ligase E6-AP and p53. Conversely, in E6- and E6/E7-immortalized cells pro-IL-1β levels were restored by siRNA knock-down of E6-AP and simultaneous recovery of functional p53. In the context of HPV-induced carcinogenesis, these data suggest a novel post-translational mechanism of pro-IL-1β regulation which ultimately inhibits the secretion of IL-1β in virus-infected keratinocytes. The clinical relevance of our results was further confirmed in HPV-positive tissue samples, where a gradual decrease of IL-1β towards cervical cancer could be discerned. Hence, attenuation of IL-1β by the HPV16 E6 oncoprotein in immortalized cells is apparently a crucial step in viral immune evasion and initiation of malignancy.
Author Summary
Persistently high-risk HPV-infected individuals have an increased risk to develop anogenital cancer. HPV encodes the viral proteins E6 and E7 that interact with and induce the degradation of the cell cycle regulators p53 and pRb, respectively, priming immortalized keratinocytes towards malignant transformation. In early antiviral immune response, IL-1β is an important factor for the initiation of inflammation and activation of immune cells such as macrophages and T cells. Our study describes a post-translationally controlled pathway where E6 mediates proteasomal degradation of IL-1β in HPV16-immortalized human keratinocytes. This process depends on the cellular ubiquitin ligase E6-AP and p53 highlighting a novel molecular mechanism of a virus-host interaction that is critical for evading innate immune defense. IL-1β dysregulation is also found in tissue sections which represent different stages of virus-induced carcinogenesis, underlining the clinical relevance of our findings.
PMCID: PMC3731255  PMID: 23935506
12.  Periprosthetic Osteolysis: Characterizing the innate immune response to titanium wear-particles 
Osteolysis of bone following total hip replacements is a major clinical problem. Examination of the areas surrounding failed implants has indicated an increase in the bone-resorption-inducing cytokine, interleukin 1β (IL-1β). NALP3, a NOD-like receptor protein located in the cytosol of macrophages, has been shown to signal the cleavage of pro-IL-1β into its mature, secreted form, IL-1β. Here we show that titanium particles stimulate the NALP3 inflammasome. We demonstrate that titanium induces IL-1β secretion from macrophages and this response is dependent on the expression of components of the NALP3 inflammasome, including NALP3, ASC, and Caspase-1. We also show that titanium particles trigger the recruitment of neutrophils and that this acute inflammatory response is dependent on the expression of the IL-1 receptor and IL-1α/β. Moreover, administration of the IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra) diminished neutrophil recruitment in response to titanium particles. Together, these results suggest that titanium particle-induced acute inflammation is due to activation of the NALP3 inflammasome, which leads to increased IL-1β secretion and IL-1-associated signaling, including neutrophil recruitment. Efficacy of IL-1Ra treatment introduces the potential for antagonist based-therapies for implant osteolysis.
PMCID: PMC4011639  PMID: 20872576
Titanium; inflammasome; neutrophils; IL-1; NALP3
13.  P2X7 Receptor Regulation of Non-Classical Secretion from Immune Effector Cells 
Cellular microbiology  2012;14(11):1697-1706.
P2X7 receptors (P2X7R) are extracellular ATP-gated ion channels expressed in the immune effector cells that carry out critical protective responses during the early phases of microbial infection or acute tissue trauma. P2X7R-positive cells include monocytes, macrophages, dendritric cells, and T-cells. Given its presence in all host and pathogen cell types, ATP can be readily released into extracellular compartments at local sites of tissue damage and microbial invasion. Thus, extracellular ATP and its target receptors on host effector cells can be considered as additional elements of the innate immune system. In this regard, stimulation of P2X7R rapidly triggers a key step of the inflammatory response: induction of NLRP3/caspase-1 inflammasome signaling complexes that drive the proteolytic maturation and secretion of the proinflammatory cytokines interleukin-1β(IL-1β) and interleukin-18 (IL-18). IL-1β(and IL-18) lacks a signal sequence for compartmentation within the Golgi and classical secretory vesicles and the proIL-1β precursor accumulates within the cytosol following translation on free ribosomes. Thus, ATP-induced accumulation of the mature IL-1β cytokine within extracellular compartments requires non-classical mechanisms of export from the cytosolic compartment. Five proposed mechanisms include: 1) exocytosis of secretory lysosomes that accumulate cytosolic IL-1β via undefined protein transporters; 2) release of membrane-delimited microvesicles derived from plasma membrane blebs formed by evaginations of the surface membrane that entrap cytosolic IL-β; 3) release of membrane-delimited exosomes secondary to the exocytosis of multivesicular bodies formed by invaginations of recycling endosomes that entrap cytosolic IL-β; 4) exocytosis of autophagosomes or autophagolysosomes that accumulate cytosolic IL-1β via entrapment during formation of the initial autophagic isolation membrane or omegasome; and 5) direct release of cytosolic IL-1β secondary to regulated cell death by pyroptosis or necroptosis. These mechanisms are not mutually exclusive and may represent engagement of parallel or intersecting membrane trafficking responses to P2X7 receptor activation.
PMCID: PMC3473166  PMID: 22882764
14.  Encephalomyocarditis Virus Viroporin 2B Activates NLRP3 Inflammasome 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(8):e1002857.
Nod-like receptors (NLRs) comprise a large family of intracellular pattern- recognition receptors. Members of the NLR family assemble into large multiprotein complexes, termed the inflammasomes. The NLR family, pyrin domain-containing 3 (NLRP3) is triggered by a diverse set of molecules and signals, and forms the NLRP3 inflammasome. Recent studies have indicated that both DNA and RNA viruses stimulate the NLRP3 inflammasome, leading to the secretion of interleukin 1 beta (IL-1β) and IL-18 following the activation of caspase-1. We previously demonstrated that the proton-selective ion channel M2 protein of influenza virus activates the NLRP3 inflammasome. However, the precise mechanism by which NLRP3 recognizes viral infections remains to be defined. Here, we demonstrate that encephalomyocarditis virus (EMCV), a positive strand RNA virus of the family Picornaviridae, activates the NLRP3 inflammasome in mouse dendritic cells and macrophages. Although transfection with RNA from EMCV virions or EMCV-infected cells induced robust expression of type I interferons in macrophages, it failed to stimulate secretion of IL-1β. Instead, the EMCV viroporin 2B was sufficient to cause inflammasome activation in lipopolysaccharide-primed macrophages. While cells untransfected or transfected with the gene encoding the EMCV non-structural protein 2A or 2C expressed NLRP3 uniformly throughout the cytoplasm, NLRP3 was redistributed to the perinuclear space in cells transfected with the gene encoding the EMCV 2B or influenza virus M2 protein. 2B proteins of other picornaviruses, poliovirus and enterovirus 71, also caused the NLRP3 redistribution. Elevation of the intracellular Ca2+ level, but not mitochondrial reactive oxygen species and lysosomal cathepsin B, was important in EMCV-induced NLRP3 inflammasome activation. Chelation of extracellular Ca2+ did not reduce virus-induced IL-1β secretion. These results indicate that EMCV activates the NLRP3 inflammasome by stimulating Ca2+ flux from intracellular storages to the cytosol, and highlight the importance of viroporins, transmembrane pore-forming viral proteins, in virus-induced NLRP3 inflammasome activation.
Author Summary
The innate immune system, the first line of defense against invading pathogens, plays a key role not only in limiting microbe replications at early stages of infection, but also in initiating and orchestrating antigen-specific adaptive immune responses. The innate immune responses against viruses usually rely on recognition of viral nucleic acids by host pattern-recognition receptors such as Toll-like receptors and cytosolic helicases. In addition, recent studies have indicated that certain viruses activate the NLRP3 inflammasome, a multiprotein complex containing the intracellular pattern-recognition receptor NLRP3, which in turn induces secretion of proinflammatory cytokines. We have previously revealed the role of the NLRP3 inflammasome in innate recognition of influenza virus, in which the influenza virus proton-selective ion channel M2 protein, but not viral RNA, is required. Here, we demonstrate that another RNA virus, encephalomyocarditis virus (EMCV), also activates the NLRP3 inflammasome in a viral RNAindependent manner. Instead, the EMCV viroporin 2B, which is involved in Ca2+ flux from intracellular storages into the cytosol, activates the NLRP3 inflammasome. Our results highlight the importance of viroporins, virusencoded transmembrane pore-forming proteins, in recognition of virus infections by NLRP3.
PMCID: PMC3415442  PMID: 22916014
15.  Resveratrol depletes mitochondrial DNA and inhibition of autophagy enhances resveratrol-induced caspase activation 
Mitochondrion  2012;13(5):493-499.
We recently demonstrated that resveratrol induces caspase-dependent apoptosis in multiple cancer cell types. Whether apoptosis is also regulated by other cell death mechanisms such as autophagy is not clearly defined. Here we show that inhibition of autophagy enhanced resveratrol-induced caspase activation and apoptosis. Resveratrol inhibited colony formation and cell proliferation in multiple cancer cell types. Resveratrol treatment induced accumulation of LC3-II, which is a key marker for autophagy. Pretreatment with 3-methyladenine (3-MA), an autophagy inhibitor, increased resveratrol-mediated caspase activation and cell death in breast and colon cancer cells. Inhibition of autophagy by silencing key autophagy regulators such as ATG5 and Beclin-1 enhanced resveratrol-induced caspase activation. Mechanistic analysis revealed that Beclin-1 did not interact with proapoptotic proteins Bax and Bak; however, Beclin-1 was found to interact with p53 in the cytosol and mitochondria upon resveratrol treatment. Importantly, resveratrol depleted ATPase 8 gene, and thus, reduced mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) content, suggesting that resveratrol induces damage to mtDNA causing accumulation of dysfunctional mitochondria triggering autophagy induction. Together, our findings indicate that induction of autophagy during resveratrol-induced apoptosis is an adaptive response.
PMCID: PMC3567227  PMID: 23088850
Resveratrol; mitochondria; autophagy; apoptosis; mitochondrial DNA
16.  Acetaminophen-induced hepatotoxicity in mice is dependent on Tlr9 and the Nalp3 inflammasome 
Hepatocyte death results in a sterile inflammatory response that amplifies the initial insult and increases overall tissue injury. One important example of this type of injury is acetaminophen-induced liver injury, in which the initial toxic injury is followed by innate immune activation. Using mice deficient in Tlr9 and the inflammasome components Nalp3 (NACHT, LRR, and pyrin domain–containing protein 3), ASC (apoptosis-associated speck-like protein containing a CARD), and caspase-1, we have identified a nonredundant role for Tlr9 and the Nalp3 inflammasome in acetaminophen-induced liver injury. We have shown that acetaminophen treatment results in hepatocyte death and that free DNA released from apoptotic hepatocytes activates Tlr9. This triggers a signaling cascade that increases transcription of the genes encoding pro–IL-1β and pro–IL-18 in sinusoidal endothelial cells. By activating caspase-1, the enzyme responsible for generating mature IL-1β and IL-18 from pro–IL-1β and pro–IL-18, respectively, the Nalp3 inflammasome plays a crucial role in the second step of proinflammatory cytokine activation following acetaminophen-induced liver injury. Tlr9 antagonists and aspirin reduced mortality from acetaminophen hepatotoxicity. The protective effect of aspirin on acetaminophen-induced liver injury was due to downregulation of proinflammatory cytokines, rather than inhibition of platelet degranulation or COX-1 inhibition. In summary, we have identified a 2-signal requirement (Tlr9 and the Nalp3 inflammasome) for acetaminophen-induced hepatotoxicity and some potential therapeutic approaches.
PMCID: PMC2631294  PMID: 19164858
17.  Regulation Where Autophagy Intersects the Inflammasome 
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling  2014;20(3):495-506.
Significance: The autophagy and inflammasome pathways are ancient innate immune mechanisms for controlling invading pathogens that are linked by mutual regulation. In addition to controlling the metabolic homeostasis of the cell through nutrient recycling, the “self-eating” process of autophagy is also responsible for the degradation of damaged organelles, cells, and pathogens to protect the integrity of the organism. As a cytosolic pathogen recognition receptor (PRR) complex, the inflammasome both induces and is induced by autophagy through direct interactions with autophagy proteins or through the effects of secondary molecules, such as mitochondrial reactive oxygen species and mitochondrial DNA. Recent Advances: While the molecular mechanisms of inflammasome activation and regulation are largely unknown, much of the current knowledge has been established through investigation of the role of autophagy in innate immunity. Likewise, regulatory proteins in the NOD-like receptor family, which includes inflammasome PRRs, are able to stimulate autophagy in response to the presence of a pathogen. Critical Issues: Many of the newly uncovered links between autophagy and inflammasomes have raised new questions about the mechanisms controlling inflammasome function, which are highlighted in this review. Future Directions: Our basic understanding of the mutual regulation of inflammasomes and autophagy will be essential for designing therapeutics for chronic inflammatory diseases, especially those for which autophagy and inflammasome genes have already been linked. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 20, 495–506.
PMCID: PMC3894701  PMID: 23642014
18.  NALP1 Influences Susceptibility to Human Congenital Toxoplasmosis, Proinflammatory Cytokine Response, and Fate of Toxoplasma gondii-Infected Monocytic Cells▿ †  
Infection and Immunity  2010;79(2):756-766.
NALP1 is a member of the NOD-like receptor (NLR) family of proteins that form inflammasomes. Upon cellular infection or stress, inflammasomes are activated, triggering maturation of proinflammatory cytokines and downstream cellular signaling mediated through the MyD88 adaptor. Toxoplasma gondii is an obligate intracellular parasite that stimulates production of high levels of proinflammatory cytokines that are important in innate immunity. In this study, susceptibility alleles for human congenital toxoplasmosis were identified in the NALP1 gene. To investigate the role of the NALP1 inflammasome during infection with T. gondii, we genetically engineered a human monocytic cell line for NALP1 gene knockdown by RNA interference. NALP1 silencing attenuated progression of T. gondii infection, with accelerated host cell death and eventual cell disintegration. In line with this observation, upregulation of the proinflammatory cytokines interleukin-1β (IL-1β), IL-18, and IL-12 upon T. gondii infection was not observed in monocytic cells with NALP1 knockdown. These findings suggest that the NALP1 inflammasome is critical for mediating innate immune responses to T. gondii infection and pathogenesis. Although there have been recent advances in understanding the potent activity of inflammasomes in directing innate immune responses to disease, this is the first report, to our knowledge, on the crucial role of the NALP1 inflammasome in the pathogenesis of T. gondii infections in humans.
PMCID: PMC3028851  PMID: 21098108
19.  Inflammasome Proteins in Cerebrospinal Fluid of Brain Injured Patients are Biomarkers of Functional Outcome 
Journal of neurosurgery  2012;117(6):1119-1125.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI), the third most common central nervous system (CNS) pathology, plagues 5.3 million Americans with permanent TBI-related disabilities. To evaluate injury severity and prognosis, physicians rely on clinical variables. Here we seek objective, biochemical markers reflecting molecular injury mechanisms specific to the CNS as more accurate measurements of injury severity and outcome. One such secondary injury mechanism, the innate immune response, is regulated by the inflammasome, a molecular platform that activates caspase-1 and interleukin-1β.
We investigated whether inflammasome components are present in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of 23 TBI patients, and whether levels of inflammasome components correlate with outcome. We performed immunoblot analysis of CSF samples from TBI patients and non-trauma controls and assessed outcome five months post-injury by the Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOS). Data were analyzed by Mann-Whitney U tests and linear regression analysis.
Patients with severe or moderate cranial trauma exhibited significantly higher CSF levels of the inflammasome proteins apoptosis-associated speck-like protein containing a caspase recruitment domain (ASC), caspase-1, and NAcht leucine-rich-repeat protein-1 (NALP-1) compared to non-trauma controls (P < 0.0001; P = 0.0029; P = 0.0202, respectively). Expression of each protein correlated significantly with GOS at five months post-injury (P < 0.05). ASC, caspase-1, and NALP-1 were significantly higher in the CSF of patients with unfavorable outcomes, including death and severe disability (P < 0.0001).
NALP-1 inflammasome proteins are potential biomarkers to assess TBI severity, outcome, and the secondary injury mechanisms impeding recovery, serving as adjuncts to clinical predictors.
PMCID: PMC3576729  PMID: 23061392
biomarkers; traumatic brain injury; inflammation; innate immunity; inflammasome
20.  Evidence of the Involvement of Caspase-1 under Physiologic and Pathologic Cellular Stress during Human Pregnancy: A Link Between the Inflammasome and Parturition 
Caspase-1 is a component of the NALP3 inflammasome, a cytosolic multiprotein complex that mediates the processing of pro-inflammatory caspases and cytokines. The inflammasome represents the first line of defense against cellular stress and is a crucial component of innate immunity. Caspase-1 is the enzyme responsible for the cleavage and activation of interleukin-1β, which is a potent pro-inflammatory cytokine, and plays a central role in the mechanisms leading to labor (preterm and term) particularly in the context of intrauterine infection/inflammation. In addition, Caspase-1 cleaves IL-18 and IL-33. The objectives of this study were to determine whether there is a relationship between amniotic fluid concentrations of caspase-1 and gestational age, parturition (term and preterm) and intra-amniotic infection/inflammation (IAI).
A cross-sectional study was conducted including 143 pregnant women in the following groups: 1) mid-trimester of pregnancy (n=18); 2) term not in labor (n=25); 3) term in labor (n=28); 4) preterm labor (PTL) who delivered at term (n=23); 5) PTL without intra-amniotic infection and/or inflammation (IAI) who delivered preterm (n=32); 6) PTL with IAI who delivered preterm neonates (n=17). Caspase-1 concentrations in amniotic fluid were determined by a specific and sensitive immunoassay. Non-parametric statistics were used for analysis.
1) Caspase-1 was detected in amniotic fluid of women at term, but in none of the mid-trimester samples; 2) Patients in labor at term had a significantly higher median amniotic fluid concentration of caspase-1 than women at term not in labor [term in labor: 10.5 pg/ml, range (0.0–666.0) vs. term not in labor: 5.99 pg/ml, range (0.0–237.4); p<0.05]; 3) Among patients with spontaneous PTL, those with intra-amniotic infection and/or inflammation [median 41.4 pg/ml; range: (0.00–515.00)] had a significantly higher median amniotic fluid caspase-1 concentration than those without intra-amniotic infection and/or inflammation who delivered preterm [median 0.0 pg/ml; range: (0.0–78.4)] and than those who delivered at term [median 0.0 pg/ml, range (0.00–199.5)], (p<0.001 for both comparisons).
1) The presence and concentration of caspase-1 in the amniotic fluid varies as a function of gestational age; 2) Women with spontaneous labor at term had a higher median caspase-1 amniotic fluid concentration than women at term without labor. This suggests that the inflammasome may be activated in spontaneous parturition at term. Since most women with labor do not have intra-amniotic infection, we propose that cellular stress during labor accounts for activation of the inflammasome; 3) Preterm labor associated with infection/inflammation was also associated with a high concentration of caspase-1, suggesting that infection may induce caspase-1 production and activation of the inflammasome; 4) The sequential activation of the inflammasome and caspase-1, leading to interleukin-1β processing and secretion, is a candidate pathway leading to the activation of the common pathway of parturition.
PMCID: PMC3163896  PMID: 18828051
ICE; interleukin-1 converting enzyme; labor; delivery; preterm; intra-amniotic infection; intra-amniotic inflammation; chorioamnionitis; preterm birth; inflammasome
21.  Screen for mitochondrial DNA copy number maintenance genes reveals essential role for ATP synthase 
Molecular Systems Biology  2014;10(6):734.
The machinery of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) maintenance is only partially characterized and is of wide interest due to its involvement in disease. To identify novel components of this machinery, plus other cellular pathways required for mtDNA viability, we implemented a genome-wide RNAi screen in Drosophila S2 cells, assaying for loss of fluorescence of mtDNA nucleoids stained with the DNA-intercalating agent PicoGreen. In addition to previously characterized components of the mtDNA replication and transcription machineries, positives included many proteins of the cytosolic proteasome and ribosome (but not the mitoribosome), three proteins involved in vesicle transport, some other factors involved in mitochondrial biogenesis or nuclear gene expression, > 30 mainly uncharacterized proteins and most subunits of ATP synthase (but no other OXPHOS complex). ATP synthase knockdown precipitated a burst of mitochondrial ROS production, followed by copy number depletion involving increased mitochondrial turnover, not dependent on the canonical autophagy machinery. Our findings will inform future studies of the apparatus and regulation of mtDNA maintenance, and the role of mitochondrial bioenergetics and signaling in modulating mtDNA copy number.
PMCID: PMC4265055  PMID: 24952591
complex V; DNA replication; mitochondrial biogenesis; mitochondrial DNA; mitophagy; nuclease; nucleoid; reactive oxygen species
22.  Crystallization and preliminary X-ray crystallographic studies of the PYD domain of human NALP3 
The PYD domain of human NALP3 was crystallized. The crystals were found to belong to the primitive monoclinic space group P21, with unit-cell parameters a = 42.03, b = 60.14, c = 51.61 Å, β = 107.40°. The crystals were obtained at 293 K and diffracted to a resolution of 1.7 Å.
The NALP3 inflammasome is a macromolecular complex that is responsible for the innate immune response against infection by bacterial and viral pathogens. The NALP3 inflammasome is composed of three protein components: NALP3, ASC and caspase 1. Interaction between NALP3 and ASC via PYD domains is critical for the assembly of the NALP3 inflammasome. In this study, human NALP3 PYD, corresponding to amino acids 3–110, was overexpressed in Escherichia coli using engineered C-terminal His tags. NALP3 PYD was then purified to homogeneity and crystallized at 293 K. Finally, X-ray diffraction data were collected to a resolution of 1.7 Å from a crystal belonging to the primitive monoclinic space group P21, with unit-cell parameters a = 42.03, b = 60.14, c = 51.61 Å, β = 107.40°.
PMCID: PMC3212466  PMID: 22102247
inflammation; inflammasome; NALP3
23.  Mitochondrial Turnover and Aging of Long-Lived Postmitotic Cells: The Mitochondrial–Lysosomal Axis Theory of Aging 
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling  2010;12(4):503-535.
It is now generally accepted that aging and eventual death of multicellular organisms is to a large extent related to macromolecular damage by mitochondrially produced reactive oxygen species, mostly affecting long-lived postmitotic cells, such as neurons and cardiac myocytes. These cells are rarely or not at all replaced during life and can be as old as the whole organism. The inherent inability of autophagy and other cellular-degradation mechanisms to remove damaged structures completely results in the progressive accumulation of garbage, including cytosolic protein aggregates, defective mitochondria, and lipofuscin, an intralysosomal indigestible material. In this review, we stress the importance of crosstalk between mitochondria and lysosomes in aging. The slow accumulation of lipofuscin within lysosomes seems to depress autophagy, resulting in reduced turnover of effective mitochondria. The latter not only are functionally deficient but also produce increased amounts of reactive oxygen species, prompting lipofuscinogenesis. Moreover, defective and enlarged mitochondria are poorly autophagocytosed and constitute a growing population of badly functioning organelles that do not fuse and exchange their contents with normal mitochondria. The progress of these changes seems to result in enhanced oxidative stress, decreased ATP production, and collapse of the cellular catabolic machinery, which eventually is incompatible with survival. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 12, 503–535.
ROS, Mitochondrial Damage, and Aging
Biomolecular damage under normal conditions
Imperfect turnover of damaged biologic structures
Major targets of ROS attack: mitochondria and lysosomes
Mitochondrial Fusion, Fission, and Biogenesis
The role of mitochondrial dynamics
Mitochondrial fusion
Mitochondrial fission
Mitochondrial biogenesis
Mitochondrial Proteolytic Systems
Mitochondrial Turnover by Autophagy
The main functions of the lysosomal compartment
Autophagic degradation of mitochondria (mitophagy)
Lipofuscin Formation and Its Influence on Autophagy
Influence of labile iron and ROS on lipofuscin formation
Consequences of the nondegradability of lipofuscin
Disease-related accumulation of intralysosomal and extralysosomal waste
Imperfect Mitochondrial Turnover and Postmitotic Cellular Aging
Age-related accumulation of defective mitochondria within postmitotic cells
Age-related decline in autophagy and Lon protease activity accelerates mitochondrial damage
Enlarged mitochondria are resistant to degradation and do not fuse with normal ones
Mechanisms of the age-related accumulation of mitochondria with homoplasmic mtDNA mutations
Decreased mitochondrial biogenesis in aged cells
Summary and Conclusions
PMCID: PMC2861545  PMID: 19650712
24.  Anthrax Lethal Toxin Triggers the Formation of a Membrane-Associated Inflammasome Complex in Murine Macrophages▿  
Infection and Immunity  2009;77(3):1262-1271.
Multiple microbial components trigger the formation of an inflammasome complex that contains pathogen-specific nucleotide oligomerization and binding domain (NOD)-like receptors (NLRs), caspase-1, and in some cases the scaffolding protein ASC. The NLR protein Nalp1b has been linked to anthrax lethal toxin (LT)-mediated cytolysis of murine macrophages. Here we demonstrate that in unstimulated J774A.1 macrophages, caspase-1 and Nalp1b are membrane associated and part of ∼200- and ∼800-kDa complexes, respectively. LT treatment of these cells resulted in caspase-1 recruitment to the Nalp1b-containing complex, concurrent with processing of cytosolic caspase-1 substrates. We further demonstrated that Nalp1b and caspase-1 are able to interact with each other. Intriguingly, both caspase-1 and Nalp1b were membrane associated, while the caspase-1 substrate interleukin-18 was cytosolic. Caspase-1-associated inflammasome components included, besides Nalp1b, proinflammatory caspase-11 and the caspase-1 substrate α-enolase. Asc was not part of the Nalp1b inflammasome in LT-treated macrophages. Taken together, our findings suggest that LT triggers the formation of a membrane-associated inflammasome complex in murine macrophages, resulting in cleavage of cytosolic caspase-1 substrates and cell death.
PMCID: PMC2643637  PMID: 19124602
25.  Asc and Ipaf Inflammasomes Direct Distinct Pathways for Caspase-1 Activation in Response to Legionella pneumophila▿  
Infection and Immunity  2009;77(5):1981-1991.
Caspase-1 activation is a key feature of the innate immune response of macrophages elicited by pathogens and a variety of toxins. Here, we determined the requirement for different adapter proteins involved in regulating host processes mediated by caspase-1 after macrophage infection by Legionella pneumophila. The adapter protein Asc was found to be important for caspase-1 activation during L. pneumophila infection. Activation of caspase-1 through Asc did not require the flagellin-sensing pathway involving the host nucleotide-binding domain and leucine-rich repeat-containing protein Ipaf (NLRC4). Asc-dependent caspase-1 activation was inhibited by high extracellular potassium levels, whereas Ipaf-dependent activation was unaffected by potassium treatment. Activation of caspase-1 in macrophages occurred independently of Nalp3 and proteasome activity, suggesting that a previously uncharacterized mechanism for caspase-1 activation through Asc may be triggered by L. pneumophila. Rapid pore formation and pyroptosis induced by L. pneumophila required caspase-1, Ipaf, and bacterial flagellin but occurred independently of Asc. Equivalent levels of active interleukin-18 (IL-18) were detected in the lungs of mice infected with a flagellin-deficient strain of L. pneumophila and Asc-deficient mice infected with wild-type L. pneumophila. Active IL-18 was undetectable in the lungs of Asc-deficient mice infected with an L. pneumophila flagellin mutant, indicating independent roles for Ipaf and Asc in caspase-1-mediated processing and release of IL-18 in vivo. Ipaf-dependent activation of caspase-1 restricted bacterial replication in vivo, whereas Asc was dispensable for restriction of L. pneumophila replication in mice. Thus, L. pneumophila-mediated caspase-1 activation involves the coordinate activities of inflammasomes differentially regulated by Ipaf and Asc.
PMCID: PMC2681768  PMID: 19237518

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