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Aging (Albany NY). 2012 Mar;4(3):166-75.

Inflammaging: disturbed interplay between autophagy and inflammasomes.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland. antero.salminen@uef.fi


Inflammaging refers to a low-grade pro-inflammatory phenotype which accompanies aging in mammals. The aging process is associated with a decline in autophagic capacity which impairs cellular housekeeping, leading to protein aggregation and accumulation of dysfunctional mitochondria which provoke reactive oxygen species (ROS) production and oxidative stress. Recent studies have clearly indicated that the ROS production induced by damaged mitochondria can stimulate intracellular danger-sensing multiprotein platforms called inflammasomes. Nod-like receptor 3 (NLRP3) can be activated by many danger signals, e.g. ROS, cathepsin B released from destabilized lysosomes and aggregated proteins, all of which evoke cellular stress and are involved in the aging process. NLRP3 activation is also enhanced in many age-related diseases, e.g. atherosclerosis, obesity and type 2 diabetes. NLRP3 activates inflammatory caspases, mostly caspase-1, which cleave the inactive precursors of IL-1β and IL-18 and stimulate their secretion. Consequently, these cytokines provoke inflammatory responses and accelerate the aging process by inhibiting autophagy. In conclusion, inhibition of autophagic capacity with aging generates the inflammaging condition via the activation of inflammasomes, in particular NLRP3. We will provide here a perspective on the current research of the ROS-dependent activation of inflammasomes triggered by the decline in autophagic cleansing of dysfunctional mitochondria.

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