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Cell Death Differ. 2003 Sep;10(9):956-68.

Critical role for cathepsin B in mediating caspase-1-dependent interleukin-18 maturation and caspase-1-independent necrosis triggered by the microbial toxin nigericin.

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Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, Singapore, Republic of Singapore.


The potassium ionophore nigericin induces cell death and promotes the maturation and release of IL-1beta in lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-primed monocytes and macrophages, the latter depending on caspase-1 activation by an unknown mechanism. Here, we investigate the pathway that triggers cell death and activates caspase-1. We show that without LPS priming, nigericin alone triggered caspase-1 activation and IL-18 generation in THP-1 monocytic cells. Simultaneously, nigericin induced caspase-1-independent necrotic cell death, which was blocked by the cathepsin B inhibitor CA-074-Me and other cathepsin inhibitors. Cathepsin B activation after nigericin treatment was determined biochemically and corroborated by rapid lysosomal leakage and translocation of cathepsin B to the cytoplasm. IL-18 maturation was prevented by both caspase-1 and cathepsin B inhibitors in THP-1 cells, primary mouse macrophages and human blood monocytes. Moreover, IL-18 generation was reduced in THP-1 cells stably transformed either with cystatin A (an endogenous cathepsin inhibitor) or antisense cathepsin B cDNA. Collectively, our study establishes a critical role for cathepsin B in nigericin-induced caspase-1-dependent IL-18 maturation and caspase-1-independent necrosis.

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