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Int Immunol. 2004 Feb;16(2):335-43.

Roles of caspase-1 in Listeria infection in mice.

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  • 1Section of Immunobiology, Yale University School of Medicine and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, New Haven, CT 06510, USA.


Caspase-1 [IL-1beta-converting enzyme (ICE)] processes substrate precursor molecules to yield the biologically active form of IL-1beta and IL-18, both of which are considered to play important roles in the host defense by activation of both innate and adaptive immunity. We evaluated the immune response of caspase-1(-/-) mice to Listeria monocytogenes (LM) infection. LM eradication in the early phase of infection was impaired in the mutant mice with a prominent decrease in IL-18 and IFN-gamma production, but not in IL-12. Caspase-1(-/-) spleen cells including dendritic cells and NK cells produced less IFN-gamma in response to heat-killed LM than wild-type cells in vitro. IFN-gamma production and bactericidal activity in LM-infected caspase-1(-/-) mice was reconstituted to normal levels by adding back IL-18 at the initial phase of infection, suggesting that the lack of this cytokine is primarily responsible for the susceptibility of caspase-1(-/-) mice against LM infection. Moreover, IFN-gamma injection of caspase-1(-/-) mice corrected the deficiency in pathogen clearance. In contrast, LM-specific acquired immunity in caspase-1(-/-) mice was normal and they successfully cleared the pathogen following secondary infection, in spite of a moderate skewing of cytokine profile to T(h)2 when compared to wild-type mice. These data shed light on the importance of caspase-1-mediated IL-18 processing in innate immunity against facultative intracellular pathogens.

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