The intersection of cell death and inflammasome activation Academic Article uri icon


  • Inflammasomes sense cellular danger to activate the cysteine-aspartic protease caspase-1, which processes precursor interleukin-1β (IL-1β) and IL-18 into their mature bioactive fragments. In addition, activated caspase-1 or the related inflammatory caspase, caspase-11, can cleave gasdermin D to induce a lytic cell death, termed pyroptosis. The intertwining of IL-1β activation and cell death is further highlighted by research showing that the extrinsic apoptotic caspase, caspase-8, may, like caspase-1, directly process IL-1β, activate the NLRP3 inflammasome itself, or bind to inflammasome complexes to induce apoptotic cell death. Similarly, RIPK3- and MLKL-dependent necroptotic signaling can activate the NLRP3 inflammasome to drive IL-1β inflammatory responses in vivo. Here, we review the mechanisms by which cell death signaling activates inflammasomes to initiate IL-1β-driven inflammation, and highlight the clinical relevance of these findings to heritable autoinflammatory diseases. We also discuss whether the act of cell death can be separated from IL-1β secretion and evaluate studies suggesting that several cell death regulatory proteins can directly interact with, and modulate the function of, inflammasome and IL-1β containing protein complexes.

publication date

  • 2016