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Cell Microbiol. 2008 Dec;10(12):2434-46. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-5822.2008.01220.x. Epub 2008 Aug 28.

Heat shock inhibits caspase-1 activity while also preventing its inflammasome-mediated activation by anthrax lethal toxin.

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Bacterial Toxins and Therapeutics Section, Laboratory of Bacterial Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Anthrax lethal toxin (LT) rapidly kills macrophages from certain mouse strains in a mechanism dependent on the breakdown of unknown protein(s) by the proteasome, formation of the Nalp1b (NLRP1b) inflammasome and subsequent activation of caspase-1. We report that heat-shocking LT-sensitive macrophages rapidly protects them against cytolysis by inhibiting caspase-1 activation without upstream effects on LT endocytosis or cleavage of the toxin's known cytosolic substrates (mitogen-activated protein kinases). Heat shock protection against LT occurred through a mechanism independent of de novo protein synthesis, HSP90 activity, p38 activation or proteasome inhibition and was downstream of mitogen-activated protein kinase cleavage and degradation of an unknown substrate by the proteasome. The heat shock inhibition of LT-mediated caspase-1 activation was not specific to the Nalp1b (NLRP1b) inflammasome, as heat shock also inhibited Nalp3 (NLRP3) inflammasome-mediated caspase-1 activation in macrophages. We found that heat shock induced pro-caspase-1 association with a large cellular complex that could prevent its activation. Additionally, while heat-shocking recombinant caspase-1 did not affect its activity in vitro, lysates from heat-shocked cells completely inhibited recombinant active caspase-1 activity. Our results suggest that heat shock inhibition of active caspase-1 can occur independently of an inflammasome platform, through a titratable factor present within intact, functioning heat-shocked cells.

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