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1.  Inflammasome priming by LPS is dependent upon ERK signaling and proteasome function* 
Caspase-1 activation is a central event in innate immune responses to many pathogenic infections and tissue damage. The NLRP3 inflammasome, a multi-protein scaffolding complex that assembles in response to two distinct steps, priming and activation, is required for caspase-1 activation. However the detailed mechanisms of these steps remain poorly characterized. To investigate the process of LPS mediated NLRP3 inflammasome priming we used constitutively present proIL-18 as the caspase-1 specific substrate to allow study of the early events. We analyzed human monocyte caspase-1 activity in response to LPS priming followed by activation with ATP. Within minutes of endotoxin priming, the NLRP3 inflammasome is licensed for ATP induced release of processed IL-18, ASC, and active caspase-1, independent of new mRNA or protein synthesis. Moreover, extracellular-regulated kinase 1 (ERK1) phosphorylation is central to the priming process. ERK inhibition and siRNA mediated ERK1 knockdown profoundly impair priming. In addition, proteasome inhibition prevents ERK phosphorylation and blocks priming. Scavenging reactive oxygen species (ROS) with diphenylene-iodonium also blocks both priming and ERK phosphorylation. These findings suggest that ERK1-mediated post-translational modifications license the NLRP3 inflammasome to respond to the second signal ATP by inducing posttranslational events that are independent of new production of proIL-1β and NOD-like receptor components.
PMCID: PMC3980013  PMID: 24623131
human; inflammation; cytokines; monocytes/macrophages; lipopolysaccharide; cell activation; bacterial infections
2.  Inflammasome Priming Is Similar for Francisella Species That Differentially Induce Inflammasome Activation 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(5):e0127278.
Inflammasome activation is a two-step process where step one, priming, prepares the inflammasome for its subsequent activation, by step two. Classically step one can be induced by LPS priming followed by step two, high dose ATP. Furthermore, when IL-18 processing is used as the inflammasome readout, priming occurs before new protein synthesis. In this context, how intracellular pathogens such as Francisella activate the inflammasome is incompletely understood, particularly regarding the relative importance of priming versus activation steps. To better understand these events we compared Francisella strains that differ in virulence and ability to induce inflammasome activation for their relative effects on step one vs. step two. When using the rapid priming model, i.e., 30 min priming by live or heat killed Francisella strains (step 1), followed by ATP (step 2), we found no difference in IL-18 release, p20 caspase-1 release and ASC oligomerization between Francisella strains (F. novicida, F. holarctica –LVS and F. tularensis Schu S4). This priming is fast, independent of bacteria viability, internalization and phagosome escape, but requires TLR2-mediated ERK phosphorylation. In contrast to their efficient priming capacity, Francisella strains LVS and Schu S4 were impaired in inflammasome triggering compared to F. novicida. Thus, observed differences in inflammasome activation by F. novicida, LVS and Schu S4 depend not on differences in priming but rather on their propensity to trigger the primed inflammasome.
PMCID: PMC4436270  PMID: 25993107
3.  Pyrin Critical to Macrophage IL-1β Response to Francisella Challenge1 
Relative to monocytes, human macrophages are deficient in their ability to process and release IL-1β. In an effort to explain this difference, we used a model of IL-1β processing and release that is dependent upon bacterial escape into the cytosol. Fresh human blood monocytes were compared with monocyte-derived macrophages (MDM) for their IL-1β release in response to challenge with Francisella novicida. Although both cell types produced similar levels of IL-1β mRNA and intracellular pro-IL-1β, only monocytes readily released processed mature IL-1β. Baseline mRNA expression profiling of candidate genes revealed a remarkable deficiency in the pyrin gene, MEFV, expression in MDM compared with monocytes. Immunoblots confirmed a corresponding deficit in MDM pyrin protein. To determine whether pyrin levels were responsible for the monocyte/MDM difference in mature IL-1β release, pyrin expression was knocked down by nucleofecting small interfering RNA against pyrin into monocytes or stably transducing small interfering RNA against pyrin into the monocyte cell line, THP-1. Pyrin knockdown was associated with a significant drop in IL-1β release in both cell types. Importantly, M-CSF treatment of MDM restored pyrin levels and IL-1β release. Similarly, the stable expression of pyrin in PMA-stimulated THP-1-derived macrophages induces caspase-1 activation, associated with increased IL-1β release after infection with F. novicida. In summary, intracellular pyrin levels positively regulate MDM IL-1β responsiveness to Francisella challenge.
PMCID: PMC3964683  PMID: 19494323
4.  Alpha 1-Antitrypsin Does Not Inhibit Human Monocyte Caspase-1 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(2):e0117330.
Alpha 1-antitrypsin (A1AT) is a 52 kDa serine protease inhibitor produced largely by hepatocytes but also by mononuclear phagocytes. A1AT chiefly inhibits neutrophil elastase and proteinase-3 but has also been reported to have immune modulatory functions including the ability to inhibit caspases. Its clinical availability for infusion suggests that A1AT therapy might modulate caspase related inflammation. Here we tested the ability of A1AT to modulate caspase-1 function in human mononuclear phagocytes.
Purified plasma derived A1AT was added to active caspase-1 in a cell-free system (THP-1 lysates) as well as added exogenously to cell-culture models and human whole blood models of caspase-1 activation. Functional caspase-1 activity was quantified by the cleavage of the caspase-1 specific fluorogenic tetrapeptide substrate (WEHD-afc) and the release of processed IL-18 and IL-1β.
THP-1 cell lysates generated spontaneous activation of caspase-1 both by WEHD-afc cleavage and the generation of p20 caspase-1. A1AT added to this cell free system was unable to inhibit caspase-1 activity. Release of processed IL-18 by THP-1 cells was also unaffected by the addition of exogenous A1AT prior to stimulation with LPS/ATP, a standard caspase-1 activating signal. Importantly, the A1AT exhibited potent neutrophil elastase inhibitory capacity. Furthermore, A1AT complexed to NE (and hence conformationally modified) also did not affect THP-1 cell caspase-1 activation. Finally, exogenous A1AT did not inhibit the ability of human whole blood samples to process and release IL-1β.
A1AT does not inhibit human monocyte caspase-1.
PMCID: PMC4319913  PMID: 25658455
5.  Interleukin-1 and Interferon-γ Orchestrate β-Glucan-Activated Human Dendritic Cell Programming via IκB-ζ Modulation 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e114516.
Recognition of microbial components via innate receptors including the C-type lectin receptor Dectin-1, together with the inflammatory environment, programs dendritic cells (DCs) to orchestrate the magnitude and type of adaptive immune responses. The exposure to β-glucan, a known Dectin-1 agonist and component of fungi, yeasts, and certain immune support supplements, activates DCs to induce T helper (Th)17 cells that are essential against fungal pathogens and extracellular bacteria but may trigger inflammatory pathology or autoimmune diseases. However, the exact mechanisms of DC programming by β-glucan have not yet been fully elucidated. Using a gene expression/perturbation approach, we demonstrate that in human DCs β-glucan transcriptionally activates via an interleukin (IL)-1- and inflammasome-mediated positive feedback late-induced genes that bridge innate and adaptive immunity. We report that in addition to its known ability to directly prime T cells toward the Th17 lineage, IL-1 by promoting the transcriptional cofactor inhibitor of κB-ζ (IκB-ζ) also programs β-glucan-exposed DCs to express cell adhesion and migration mediators, antimicrobial molecules, and Th17-polarizing factors. Interferon (IFN)-γ interferes with the IL-1/IκB-ζ axis in β-glucan-activated DCs and promotes T cell-mediated immune responses with increased release of IFN-γ and IL-22, and diminished production of IL-17. Thus, our results identify IL-1 and IFN-γ as regulators of DC programming by β-glucan. These molecular networks provide new insights into the regulation of the Th17 response as well as new targets for the modulation of immune responses to β-glucan-containing microorganisms.
PMCID: PMC4256441  PMID: 25474109
6.  Tyrosine Phosphatase Inhibition Induces an ASC-dependent Pyroptosis 
Pyroptosis is a type of cell death in which danger associated molecular patterns (DAMPs) and pathogen associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) induce mononuclear phagocytes to activate caspase-1 and release mature IL-1β. Because the tyrosine kinase inhibitor AG126 can prevent DAMP/PAMP induced activation of caspase-1, we hypothesized that tipping the tyrosine kinase/phosphatase balance toward phosphorylation would promote caspase-1 activation and cell death. THP-1 derived macrophages were therefore treated with the potent specific tyrosine phosphatase inhibitor, sodium orthovanadate (OVN) and analyzed for caspase-1 activation and cell death. OVN induced generalized increase in phosphorylated proteins, IL-1β release and cell death in a time and dose dependent pattern. This OVN induced pyroptosis correlated with speck formations that contained the apoptosis-associated speck-like protein containing a caspase recruitment domain (ASC). Culturing the cells in the presence of extracellular K+ (known to inhibit ATP dependent pyroptosis), a caspase inhibitor (ZVAD) or down regulating the expression of ASC with stable expression of siASC prevented the OVN induced pyroptosis. These data demonstrate that pyroptotic death is linked to tyrosine phosphatase activity providing novel targets for future pharmacologic interventions.
PMCID: PMC3437604  PMID: 22842458
inflammasome; pyroptosis; phosphatases; ASC; caspase-1; IL-1β
7.  Activation of the Pyrin Inflammasome by Intracellular Burkholderia cenocepacia 
Burkholderia cenocepacia is an opportunistic pathogen that causes chronic infection and induces progressive respiratory inflammation in cystic fibrosis patients. Recognition of bacteria by mononuclear cells generally results in the activation of caspase-1 and processing of IL-1β, a major proinflammatory cytokine. In this study, we report that human pyrin is required to detect intracellular B. cenocepacia leading to IL-1β processing and release. This inflammatory response involves the host adapter molecule ASC and the bacterial type VI secretion system (T6SS). Human monocytes and THP-1 cells stably expressing either small interfering RNA against pyrin or YFP–pyrin and ASC (YFP–ASC) were infected with B. cenocepacia and analyzed for inflammasome activation. B. cenocepacia efficiently activates the inflammasome and IL-1β release in monocytes and THP-1. Suppression of pyrin levels in monocytes and THP-1 cells reduced caspase-1 activation and IL-1β release in response to B. cenocepacia challenge. In contrast, overexpression of pyrin or ASC induced a robust IL-1β response to B. cenocepacia, which correlated with enhanced host cell death. Inflammasome activation was significantly reduced in cells infected with T6SS-defective mutants of B. cenocepacia, suggesting that the inflammatory reaction is likely induced by an as yet uncharacterized effector(s) of the T6SS. Together, we show for the first time, to our knowledge, that in human mononuclear cells infected with B. cenocepacia, pyrin associates with caspase-1 and ASC forming an inflammasome that upregulates mononuclear cell IL-1β processing and release.
PMCID: PMC3482472  PMID: 22368275
8.  Receptor Interacting Protein-2 Plays a Critical Role in Human Lung Epithelial Cells Survival in Response to Fas-Induced Cell-Death 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e92731.
Lung epithelial cell death is critical to the lung injury that occurs in the acute respiratory distress syndrome. It is known that FasL plays a prominent role in this lung cell death pathway and may work in part through activation of the receptor interacting protein-2 (RIP2). RIP2 is serine/threonine kinase with a C-terminal caspase activation and recruitment domain (CARD). This CARD contains a highly conserved, predicted tyrosine phosphorylation site. Thus, involvement of tyrosine phosphorylation in the CARD domain of RIP2 may play a critical role in Fas-mediated apoptosis in the human lung immune system. To test this hypothesis, human lung epithelial cells (BEAS-2B) were induced to undergo cell death in response to the Fas agonist antibody CH11 with and without manipulation of endogenous RIP2 concentrations. We show that CH11 increases lung epithelial cell death in a dose-dependent manner as determined by LDH release and nuclear condensation. Fas-induced LDH release was inhibited by RIP2 knock-down. Reduced levels of RIP2 in BEAS-2B cells after treatment with RIP2 siRNA were confirmed by immunoblot. Overexpression of RIP2 in BEAS-2B cells synergized with Fas ligand-induced LDH release in a dose-dependent manner. Finally, mutation of the tyrosine phosphorylation site in CARD of RIP2 protected BEAS-2B cells from Fas ligand induced cell death. Thus RIP2's CARD tyrosine phosphorylation may represent a new therapeutic target to promote the survival of human lung epithelial cells in disorders that lead to acute lung injury and ARDS.
PMCID: PMC3962444  PMID: 24658576
9.  Microvesicular Caspase-1 Mediates Lymphocyte Apoptosis in Sepsis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e90968.
Immune dysregulation during sepsis is poorly understood, however, lymphocyte apoptosis has been shown to correlate with poor outcomes in septic patients. The inflammasome, a molecular complex which includes caspase-1, is essential to the innate immune response to infection and also important in sepsis induced apoptosis. Our group has recently demonstrated that endotoxin-stimulated monocytes release microvesicles (MVs) containing caspase-1 that are capable of inducing apoptosis. We sought to determine if MVs containing caspase-1 are being released into the blood during human sepsis and induce apoptosis..
Single-center cohort study
50 critically ill patients were screened within 24 hours of admission to the intensive care unit and classified as either a septic or a critically ill control. Circulatory MVs were isolated and analyzed for the presence of caspase-1 and the ability to induce lymphocyte apoptosis. Patients remaining in the ICU for 48 hours had repeated measurement of caspase-1 activity on ICU day 3.
Main Results
Septic patients had higher microvesicular caspase-1 activity 0.05 (0.04, 0.07) AFU versus 0.0 AFU (0, 0.02) (p<0.001) on day 1 and this persisted on day 3, 0.12 (0.1, 0.2) versus 0.02 (0, 0.1) (p<0.001). MVs isolated from septic patients on day 1 were able to induce apoptosis in healthy donor lymphocytes compared with critically ill control patients (17.8±9.2% versus 4.3±2.6% apoptotic cells, p<0.001) and depletion of MVs greatly diminished this apoptotic signal. Inhibition of caspase-1 or the disruption of MV integrity abolished the ability to induce apoptosis.
These findings suggest that microvesicular caspase-1 is important in the host response to sepsis, at least in part, via its ability to induce lymphocyte apoptosis. The ability of microvesicles to induce apoptosis requires active caspase-1 and intact microvesicles.
PMCID: PMC3958341  PMID: 24643116
10.  Virulent Type A Francisella tularensis actively suppresses cytokine responses in human monocytes 
Background: Human monocyte inflammatory responses differ between virulent and attenuated Francisella infection.
Results: A mixed infection model showed that the virulent F. tularensis Schu S4 can attenuate inflammatory cytokine responses to the less virulent F. novicida in human monocytes.
Conclusion: F. tularensis dampens inflammatory response by an active process.
Significance: This suppression may contribute to enhanced pathogenicity of F. tularensis. Francisella tularensis is a Gram-negative facultative bacterium that can cause the disease tularemia, even upon exposure to low numbers of bacteria. One critical characteristic of Francisella is its ability to dampen or subvert the host immune response. Previous work has shown that monocytes infected with highly virulent F. tularensis subsp. tularensis strain Schu S4 responded with a general pattern of quantitatively reduced pro-inflammatory signaling pathway genes and cytokine production in comparison to those infected with the less virulent related F. novicida. However, it has been unclear whether the virulent Schu S4 was merely evading or actively suppressing monocyte responses. By using mixed infection assays with F. tularensis and F. novicida, we show that F. tularensis actively suppresses monocyte pro-inflammatory responses. Additional experiments show that this suppression occurs in a dose-dependent manner and is dependent upon the viability of F. tularensis. Importantly, F. tularensis was able to suppress pro-inflammatory responses to earlier infections with F. novicida. These results lend support that F. tularensis actively dampens human monocyte responses and this likely contributes to its enhanced pathogenicity.
PMCID: PMC3988375  PMID: 24783062
Francisella; monocytes; cytokines; signal transduction; innate immunity
11.  Francisella Recognition by Inflammasomes: Differences between Mice and Men 
Pathogen recognition by intracellular sensors involves the assembly of a caspase-1 activation machine termed the inflammasome. Intracellular pathogens like Francisella that gain access to the cytosolic detection systems are useful tools to uncover the details of caspase-1 activation events. This review overviews Francisella function in the mononuclear phagocyte with particular attention to inflammasome versus pyroptosome roles and outlines differences between mouse and human caspase-1 activation pathways. Specific attention is placed on functional differences between human and murine pyrin as an intracellular recognition molecule for Francisella.
PMCID: PMC3109362  PMID: 21687407
AIM2; Francisella; IL-1β; inflammasome; M-CSF; monocytes; pyrin; pyroptosome
12.  Interleukin-1β selectively expands and sustains interleukin-22+ immature human natural killer cells in secondary lymphoid tissue 
Immunity  2010;32(6):803-814.
Among human natural killer (NK) cell intermediates in secondary lymphoid tissue (SLT), stage 3 CD34− CD117+CD161+CD94− immature NK (iNK) cells uniquely express aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) and interleukin-22 (IL-22), supporting a role in mucosal immunity. The mechanisms controlling proliferation and differentiation of these cells are unknown. Here we demonstrate that the IL-1 receptor IL-1R1 was selectively expressed by a subpopulation of iNK cells that localized proximal to IL-1β-producing conventional dendritic cells (cDCs) within SLT. IL-1R1hi iNK cells required continuous exposure to IL-1β to retain AHR and IL-22 expression, and proliferate in direct response to cDC-derived IL-15 and IL-1β. In the absence of IL-1β, a substantially greater fraction of IL-1R1hi iNK cells differentiated to stage 4 NK cells and acquired the ability to kill and secrete IFN-γ. Thus, cDC-derived IL-1β preserves and expands IL-1R1hiIL-22+AHR+ iNK cells, potentially influencing human mucosal innate immunity during infection.
PMCID: PMC3742307  PMID: 20620944
13.  Caspase-11 promotes the fusion of phagosomes harboring pathogenic bacteria with lysosomes by modulating actin polymerization 
Immunity  2012;37(1):35-47.
Inflammasomes are multiprotein complexes that include members of the NLR (nucleotide-binding domain leucine-rich repeat containing) family and caspase-1. Once bacterial molecules are sensed within the macrophage, the inflammasome is assembled mediating the activation of caspase-1. Caspase-11 mediates caspase-1 activation in response to lipopolysaccharide and bacterial toxins. Yet, its role during bacterial infection is unknown. Here, we demonstrated that caspase-11 was dispensable for caspase-1 activation in response to Legionella, Salmonella, Francisella and Listeria. We also determined that active mouse caspase-11 was required for restriction of L. pneumophila infection. Similarly, human caspase-4 and 5, homologs of mouse caspase-11, cooperated to restrict L. pneumophila infection in human macrophages. Caspase-11 promoted the fusion of the L. pneumophila- vacuole with lysosomes by modulating actin polymerization through cofilin. However, caspase-11 was dispensable for the fusion of lysosomes with phagosomes containing non-pathogenic bacteria, uncovering a fundamental difference in the trafficking of phagosomes according to their cargo.
PMCID: PMC3408798  PMID: 22658523
14.  The zinc transporter SLC39A8 is a negative feedback regulator of NF-κB through zinc-mediated inhibition of IKK 
Cell reports  2013;3(2):386-400.
Activation of the transcription factor NF-κB is essential to innate immune function and requires strict regulation. The micronutrient zinc modulates proper host defense and zinc deficiency is associated with elevated inflammation and worse outcomes in response to bacterial infection and sepsis. Previous studies suggest that zinc may regulate NF-κB activity during innate immune activation but a mechanistic basis to support this is lacking. Herein we report that the zinc transporter, SLC39A8 (ZIP8), is a transcriptional target of NF-κB and functions to negatively regulate pro-inflammatory responses through zinc-mediated down-modulation of IKK activity in vitro. Accordingly, fetal fibroblasts obtained from Slc39a8 hypomorphic mice exhibited dysregulated zinc uptake and increased NF-κB activation. Consistent with this, mice provided zinc-deficient dietary intakes developed excessive inflammation to polymicrobial sepsis in conjunction with insufficient control of IKK. Our findings identify a novel negative feedback loop that directly regulates innate immune function through coordination of zinc metabolism.
PMCID: PMC3615478  PMID: 23403290
15.  Inflammasome mRNA Expression in Human Monocytes during Early Septic Shock 
Rationale: Monocytes are central to the initiation of the inflammatory response in sepsis, with caspase-1 activation playing a key role. Monocyte deactivation during sepsis has been linked to poor outcomes.
Objectives: Given the importance of caspase-1 in the immune response, we investigated whether monocytes from patients early in septic shock demonstrate alterations in mRNAs for caspase-1–related molecules.
Methods: Patients with septic shock (n = 26; age >18 years), critically ill intensive care unit patients (n = 20), and healthy volunteers (n = 22) were enrolled in a prospective cohort study in a university intensive care unit. Demographic, biological, physiologic, and plasma cytokine measurements were obtained. Monocytes were assayed for ex vivo tumor necrosis factor-α production, and fresh monocyte mRNA was analyzed by quantitative reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction for Toll-like receptors, NOD-LRR proteins, cytokines, and nuclear factor-κB–related genes.
Measurements and Main Results: Relative copy numbers for the inflammasome mRNAs for ASC, caspase-1, NALP1, and Pypaf-7 were significantly lower in patients with septic shock compared with critically ill control subjects. NALP1 mRNA levels were linked to survival in patients with sepsis (P = 0.0068) and correlated with SAPS II scores (r = −0.63).
Conclusions: These data suggest that monocyte deactivation occurs during the earliest stages of the systemic inflammatory response and that changes in inflammasome mRNA expression are part of this process.
PMCID: PMC2361424  PMID: 18263805
inflammasome; monocytes; septic shock; messenger RNA; NALP1
16.  Autophagy stimulation by rapamycin suppresses lung inflammation and infection by Burkholderia cenocepacia in a model of cystic fibrosis 
Autophagy  2011;7(11):1359-1370.
Cystic fibrosis (CF) is the most common inherited lethal disease in Caucasians which results in multiorgan dysfunction. However, 85% of the deaths are due to pulmonary infections. Infection by Burkholderia cenocepacia (B. cepacia) is a particularly lethal threat to CF patients because it causes severe and persistent lung inflammation and is resistant to nearly all available antibiotics. In CFTR ΔF508 (ΔF508) mouse macrophages, B. cepacia persists in vacuoles that do not fuse with the lysosomes and mediates increased production of IL-1β. It is believed that intracellular bacterial survival contributes to the persistence of the bacterium. Here we show for the first time that in wild-type but not in ΔF508 macrophages, many B. cepacia reside in autophagosomes that fuse with lysosomes at later stages of infection. Accordingly, association and intracellular survival of B. cepacia are higher in CFTR-ΔF508 macrophages than in WT macrophages. An autophagosome is a compartment that engulfs nonfunctional organelles and parts of the cytoplasm then delivers them to the lysosome for degradation to produce nutrients during periods of starvation or stress. Furthermore, we show that B. cepacia downregulates autophagy genes in WT and ΔF508 macrophages. However, autophagy dysfunction is more pronounced in ΔF508 macrophages since they already have compromised autophagy activity. We demonstrate that the autophagystimulating agent, rapamycin markedly decreases B. cepacia infection in vitro by enhancing the clearance of B. cepacia via induced autophagy. In vivo, rapamycin decreases bacterial burden in the lungs of CF mice and drastically reduces signs of lung inflammation. Together, our studies reveal that if efficiently activated, autophagy can control B. cepacia infection and ameliorate the associated inflammation. Therefore, autophagy is a novel target for new drug development for CF patients to control B. cepacia infection and accompanying inflammation.
PMCID: PMC3359483  PMID: 21997369
autophagy; rapamycin; cystic fibrosis; host-pathogen interaction; Burkholderia cenocepacia; inflammation; macrophages
17.  Caspase-1 Regulates Escherichia coli Sepsis and Splenic B Cell Apoptosis Independently of Interleukin-1β and Interleukin-18 
Rationale: Caspase-1 processes interleukin 1β (IL-1β) and IL-18 but may also contribute to apoptosis. In this context, caspase-1 knockout mice have been shown to be protected from endotoxin-induced mortality, whereas IL-1β knockout mice are not protected.
Objectives: We therefore sought to delineate the mechanisms responsible for the differential responses between caspase-1 and IL-1β knockout mice.
Methods: Caspase-1 knockout, IL-1β knockout, and IL-1β/IL-18 double knockout mice were compared with wild-type mice for survival after intraperitoneal challenge with live Escherichia coli.
Measurements and Main Results: Caspase-1 knockout animals were protected from bacterial challenge, whereas wild-type, IL-1β knockout, and IL-1β/IL-18 double knockout animals were not. Wild-type animals and both IL-1β knockout and IL-1β/IL-18 double knockout mice demonstrated significant splenic B lymphocyte apoptosis, which was absent in the caspase-1 knockout mice. Importantly, IL-1β/IL-18 double knockout mice were protected from splenic cell apoptosis and sepsis-induced mortality by the caspase inhibitor zVAD-fmk. Furthermore, wild-type but not caspase-1 knockout splenic B lymphocytes induced peritoneal macrophages to assume an inhibitory phenotype.
Conclusion: Taken together, these findings suggest that caspase-1 is important in the host response to sepsis at least in part via its ability to regulate sepsis-induced splenic cell apoptosis.
PMCID: PMC2648100  PMID: 16908867
apoptosis; caspase inhibition; septic shock; spleen
18.  Inflammasome-Dependent Release of the Alarmin HMGB1 in Endotoxemia 
Endotoxin administration recapitulates many of the host responses to sepsis. Inhibitors of the cysteine protease caspase 1 have long been sought as a therapeutic because mice lacking caspase 1 are resistant to LPS-induced endotoxic shock. According to current thinking, caspase 1-mediated shock requires the proinflammatory caspase 1 substrates IL-1β and IL-18. We show, however, that mice lacking both IL-1β and IL-18 are normally susceptible to LPS-induced splenocyte apoptosis and endotoxic shock. This finding indicates the existence of another caspase 1-dependent mediator of endotoxemia. Reduced serum high mobility group box 1 (HMGB1) levels in caspase 1-deficient mice correlated with their resistance to LPS. A critical role for HMGB1 in endotoxemia was confirmed when mice deficient for IL-1β and IL-18 were protected from a lethal dose of LPS by pretreatment with HMGB1-neutralizing Abs. We found that HMGB1 secretion from LPS-primed macrophages required the inflammasome components apoptotic speck protein containing a caspase activation and recruitment domain (ASC), caspase 1 and Nalp3, whereas HMGB1 secretion from macrophages infected in vitro with Salmonella typhimurium was dependent on caspase 1 and Ipaf. Thus, HMGB1 secretion, which is critical for endotoxemia, occurs downstream of inflammasome assembly and caspase 1 activation.
PMCID: PMC3428148  PMID: 20802146
19.  Sepsis: Links between Pathogen Sensing and Organ Damage 
Current Pharmaceutical Design  2008;14(19):1840-1852.
The host’s inflammatory response to sepsis can be divided into two phases, the initial detection and response to the pathogen initiated by the innate immune response, and the persistent inflammatory state characterized by multiple organ dysfunction syndrome (MODS). New therapies aimed at pathogen recognition receptors (PRRs) particularly the TLRs and the NOD-like receptors offer hope to suppress the initial inflammatory response in early sepsis and to bolster this response in late sepsis. The persistence of MODS after the initial inflammatory surge can also be a determining factor to host survival. MODS is due to the cellular damage and death induced by sepsis. The mechanism of this cell death depends in part upon mitochondrial dysfunction. Damaged mitochondria have increased membrane permeability prompting their autophagic removal if few mitochondria are involved but apoptotic cell death may occur if the mitochondrial losses are more extensive. In addition. severe loss of mitochondria results in low cell energy stores, necrotic cell death, and increased inflammation driven by the release of cell components such as HMGB1. Therapies, which aim at improving cellular energy reserves such as the promotion of mitochondrial biogenesis by insulin, may have a role in future sepsis therapies. Finally, both the inflammatory responses and the susceptibility to organ failure may be modulated by nutritional status and micronutrients, such as zinc, Therapies aimed at micronutrient repletion may further augment approaches targeting PRR function and mitochondrial viability.
PMCID: PMC3254059  PMID: 18691095
20.  Caspase-1-induced pyroptosis is an innate immune effector mechanism against intracellular bacteria 
Nature immunology  2010;11(12):1136-1142.
Macrophages mediate crucial innate immune responses via caspase-1-dependent processing and secretion of IL-1β and IL-18. While wild type Salmonella typhimurium infection is lethal to mice, a strain that persistently expresses flagellin was cleared by the cytosolic flagellin detection pathway via NLRC4 activation of caspase-1; however, this clearance was independent of IL-1β and IL-18. Instead, caspase-1 induced pyroptotic cell death, released bacteria from macrophages and exposed them to uptake and killing by reactive oxygen species in neutrophils. Similarly, caspase-1 cleared unmanipulated Legionella and Burkholderia by cytokine-independent mechanisms. This demonstrates for the first time that caspase-1 clears intracellular bacteria in vivo independent of IL-1β and IL-18, and establishes pyroptosis as an efficient mechanism of bacterial clearance by the innate immune system.
PMCID: PMC3058225  PMID: 21057511
Caspase-1; pyroptosis; IL-1β Salmonella; cell death
21.  Asc-Dependent and Independent Mechanisms Contribute to Restriction of Legionella Pneumophila Infection in Murine Macrophages 
The apoptosis-associated speck-like protein containing a caspase recruitment domain (Asc) is an adaptor molecule that mediates inflammatory and apoptotic signals. Legionella pneumophila is an intracellular bacterium and the causative agent of Legionnaire's pneumonia. L. pneumophila is able to cause pneumonia in immuno-compromised humans but not in most inbred mice. Murine macrophages that lack the ability to activate caspase-1, such as caspase-1−/− and Nlrc4−/− allow L. pneumophila infection. This permissiveness is attributed mainly to the lack of active caspase-1 and the absence of its down stream substrates such as caspase-7. However, the role of Asc in control of L. pneumophila infection in mice is unclear. Here we show that caspase-1 is moderately activated in Asc−/− macrophages and that this limited activation is required and sufficient to restrict L. pneumophila growth. Moreover, Asc-independent activation of caspase-1 requires bacterial flagellin and is mainly detected in cellular extracts but not in culture supernatants. We also demonstrate that the depletion of Asc from permissive macrophages enhances bacterial growth by promoting L. pneumophila-mediated activation of the NF-κB pathway and decreasing caspase-3 activation. Taken together, our data demonstrate that L. pneumophila infection in murine macrophages is controlled by several mechanisms: Asc-independent activation of caspase-1 and Asc-dependent regulation of NF-κB and caspase-3 activation.
PMCID: PMC3112328  PMID: 21713115
inflammasome; caspase-1; Legionella pneumophila; Asc
22.  Apoptosis-associated Speck-like Protein (ASC) Controls Legionella pneumophila Infection in Human Monocytes* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2010;286(5):3203-3208.
The ability of Legionella pneumophila to cause pneumonia is determined by its capability to evade the immune system and grow within human monocytes and their derived macrophages. Human monocytes efficiently activate caspase-1 in response to Salmonella but not to L. pneumophila. The molecular mechanism for the lack of inflammasome activation during L. pneumophila infection is unknown. Evaluation of the expression of several inflammasome components in human monocytes during L. pneumophila infection revealed that the expression of the apoptosis-associated speck-like protein (ASC) and the NOD-like receptor NLRC4 are significantly down-regulated in human monocytes. Exogenous expression of ASC maintained the protein level constant during L. pneumophila infection and conveyed caspase-1 activation and restricted the growth of the pathogen. Further depletion of ASC with siRNA was accompanied with improved NF-κB activation and enhanced L. pneumophila growth. Therefore, our data demonstrate that L. pneumophila manipulates ASC levels to evade inflammasome activation and grow in human monocytes. By targeting ASC, L. pneumophila modulates the inflammasome, the apoptosome, and NF-κB pathway simultaneously.
PMCID: PMC3030324  PMID: 21097506
Caspase; Cellular Immune Response; Immunology; Inflammation; Innate Immunity; ASC; Legionella; NOD-like Receptors; Human Monocytes; Inflammasome
23.  Monocyte Activation by Necrotic Cells Is Promoted by Mitochondrial Proteins and Formyl Peptide Receptors 
Critical care medicine  2009;37(6):2000-2009.
Necrotic cells evoke potent innate immune responses through unclear mechanisms. The mitochondrial fraction of the cell retains constituents of its bacterial ancestors, including N-formyl peptides, which are potentially immunogenic. Thus, we hypothesized that the mitochondrial fraction of the cell, particularly N-formyl peptides, contributes significantly to the activation of monocytes by necrotic cells.
Human peripheral blood monocytes were incubated with necrotic cell fractions and mitochondrial proteins in order to investigate their potential for immune cell activation.
University medical center research laboratory.
Healthy human adults served as blood donors.
Measurements and Main Results
Human blood monocyte activation was measured after treatment with cytosolic, nuclear and mitochondrial fractions of necrotic HepG2 cells or necrotic HepG2 cells depleted of N-formyl peptides [Rho(0) cells]. The specific role of the high affinity formyl peptide receptor (FPR) was then tested using specific pharmacological inhibitors and RNA-silencing. The capacity of mitochondrial N-formyl peptides to activate monocytes was confirmed using a synthetic peptide conforming to the N-terminus of mitochondrial NADH subunit 6. The results demonstrated that mitochondrial cell fractions most potently activated monocytes, and IL-8 was selectively released at low protein concentrations. Mitochondria from Rho(0) cells induced minimal monocyte IL-8 release, and specific pharmacological inhibitors and RNA-silencing confirmed that FPR contributes significantly to monocyte IL-8 responses to both necrotic cells and mitochondrial proteins. N-formyl peptides alone did not induce monocyte IL-8 release; whereas, the combination of mitochondrial N-formyl peptides and mitochondrial transcription factor A (TFAM) dramatically increased IL-8 release from monocytes. Likewise, HMGB1, the nuclear homologue of TFAM, did not induce monocyte IL-8 release unless combined with mitochondrial N-formyl peptides.
Interactions between mitochondrial N-formyl peptides and FPR in the presence of other mitochondrial antigens (e.g., TFAM) contributes significantly to the activation of monocytes by necrotic cells.
PMCID: PMC2743203  PMID: 19384205
Innate immunity; Inflammation; N-formyl proteins; TFAM; HMGB1; Necrosis
24.  Gene Expression Profiling Identifies MMP-12 and ADAMDEC1 as Potential Pathogenic Mediators of Pulmonary Sarcoidosis 
Rationale: Little is known about the genetic regulation of granulomatous inflammation in sarcoidosis.
Objectives: To determine if tissue gene array analysis would identify novel genes engaged in inflammation and lung remodeling in patients with sarcoidosis.
Methods: Gene expression analysis was performed on tissues obtained from patients with sarcoidosis at the time of diagnosis (untreated) (n = 6) compared with normal lung tissue (n = 6). Expression of select genes was further confirmed in lung tissue from a second series of patients with sarcoidosis and disease-free control subjects (n = 11 per group) by semi-quantitative RT-PCR. Interactive gene networks were identified in patients with sarcoidosis using Ingenuity Pathway Analysis (Ingenuity Systems, Inc., Redwood, CA) software. The expression of proteins corresponding to selected overexpressed genes was determined using fluorokine multiplex analysis, and immunohistochemistry. Selected genes and proteins were then analyzed in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid in an independent series of patients with sarcoidosis (n = 36) and control subjects (n = 12).
Measurements and Main Results: A gene network engaged in Th1-type responses was most significantly overexpressed in the sarcoidosis lung tissues, including genes not previously reported in the context of sarcoidosis (e.g., IL-7). MMP-12 and ADAMDEC1 transcripts were most highly expressed (> 25-fold) in sarcoidosis lung tissues, corresponding with increased protein expression by immunohistochemistry. MMP-12 and ADAMDEC1 gene and protein expression were increased in bronchoalveolar lavage samples from patients with sarcoidosis, correlating with disease severity.
Conclusions: Tissue gene expression analyses provide novel insights into the pathogenesis of pulmonary sarcoidosis. MMP-12 and ADAMDEC1 emerge as likely mediators of lung damage and/or remodeling and may serve as markers of disease activity.
PMCID: PMC2684019  PMID: 19218196
genetic; gene array; granuloma; lung; BAL
25.  Mycoplasma Suppression of THP-1 Cell TLR Responses Is Corrected with Antibiotics 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(3):e9900.
Mycoplasma contamination of cultured cell lines is a serious problem in research, altering cellular response to different stimuli thus compromising experimental results. We found that chronic mycoplasma contamination of THP-1 cells suppresses responses of THP-1 cells to TLR stimuli. For example, E. coli LPS induced IL-1 β was suppressed by 6 fold and IL-8 by 10 fold in mycoplasma positive THP-1 cells. Responses to live F. novicida challenge were suppressed by 50-fold and 40-fold respectively for IL-1β and IL-8. Basal TLR4 expression level in THP-1 cells was decreased by mycoplasma by 2.4-fold (p = 0.0003). Importantly, cell responses to pathogen associated molecular patterns are completely restored by mycoplasma clearance with Plasmocin. Thus, routine screening of cell lines for mycoplasma is important for the maintenance of reliable experimental data and contaminated cell lines can be restored to their baseline function with antibiotic clearance of mycoplasma.
PMCID: PMC2845629  PMID: 20360862

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