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J Immunol. 2003 Dec 1;171(11):6154-63.

Apoptosis-associated speck-like protein containing a caspase recruitment domain is a regulator of procaspase-1 activation.

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Burnham Institute, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


Apoptosis-associated speck-like protein containing a caspase recruitment domain (ASC)/target of methylation-induced silencing/PYCARD represents one of only two proteins encoded in the human genome that contains a caspase recruitment domain (CARD) together with a pyrin, AIM, ASC, and death domain-like (PAAD)/PYRIN/DAPIN domain. CARDs regulate caspase family proteases. We show here that ASC binds by its CARD to procaspase-1 and to adapter proteins involved in caspase-1 activation, thereby regulating cytokine pro-IL-1beta activation by this protease in THP-1 monocytes. ASC enhances IL-1beta secretion into the cell culture supernatants, at low concentrations, while suppressing at high concentrations. When expressed in HEK293 cells, ASC interferes with Cardiak/Rip2/Rick-mediated oligomerization of procaspase-1 and suppresses activation this protease, as measured by protease activity assays. Moreover, ASC also recruits procaspase-1 into ASC-formed cytosolic specks, separating it from Cardiak. We also show that expression of the PAAD/PYRIN family proteins pyrin or cryopyrin/PYPAF1/NALP3 individually inhibits IL-1beta secretion but that coexpression of ASC with these proteins results in enhanced IL-1beta secretion. However, expression of ASC uniformly interferes with caspase-1 activation and IL-1beta secretion induced by proinflammatory stimuli such as LPS and TNF, suggesting pathway competition. Moreover, LPS and TNF induce increases in ASC mRNA and protein expression in cells of myeloid/monocytic origin, revealing another level of cross-talk of cytokine-signaling pathways with the ASC-controlled pathway. Thus, our results suggest a complex interplay of the bipartite adapter protein ASC with PAAD/PYRIN family proteins, LPS (Toll family receptors), and TNF in the regulation of procaspase-1 activation, cytokine production, and control of inflammatory responses.

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