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Nat Immunol. 2010 Dec;11(12):1136-42. doi: 10.1038/ni.1960. Epub 2010 Nov 7.

Caspase-1-induced pyroptosis is an innate immune effector mechanism against intracellular bacteria.

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  • 1Institute for Systems Biology, Seattle, Washington, USA.


Macrophages mediate crucial innate immune responses via caspase-1-dependent processing and secretion of interleukin 1β (IL-1β) and IL-18. Although infection with wild-type Salmonella typhimurium is lethal to mice, we show here that a strain that persistently expresses flagellin was cleared by the cytosolic flagellin-detection pathway through the activation of caspase-1 by the NLRC4 inflammasome; however, this clearance was independent of IL-1β and IL-18. Instead, caspase-1-induced pyroptotic cell death released bacteria from macrophages and exposed the bacteria to uptake and killing by reactive oxygen species in neutrophils. Similarly, activation of caspase-1 cleared unmanipulated Legionella pneumophila and Burkholderia thailandensis by cytokine-independent mechanisms. This demonstrates that activation of caspase-1 clears intracellular bacteria in vivo independently of IL-1β and IL-18 and establishes pyroptosis as an efficient mechanism of bacterial clearance by the innate immune system.

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