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Nat Immunol. 2012 May;13(5):449-56. doi: 10.1038/ni.2263.

NLRC4-driven production of IL-1β discriminates between pathogenic and commensal bacteria and promotes host intestinal defense.

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Department of Pathology and Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.


Intestinal phagocytes transport oral antigens and promote immune tolerance, but their role in innate immune responses remains unclear. Here we found that intestinal phagocytes were anergic to ligands for Toll-like receptors (TLRs) or commensals but constitutively expressed the precursor to interleukin 1β (pro-IL-1β). After infection with pathogenic Salmonella or Pseudomonas, intestinal phagocytes produced mature IL-1β through the NLRC4 inflammasome but did not produce tumor necrosis factor (TNF) or IL-6. BALB/c mice deficient in NLRC4 or the IL-1 receptor were highly susceptible to orogastric but not intraperitoneal infection with Salmonella. That enhanced lethality was preceded by impaired expression of endothelial adhesion molecules, lower neutrophil recruitment and poor intestinal pathogen clearance. Thus, NLRC4-dependent production of IL-1β by intestinal phagocytes represents a specific response that discriminates pathogenic bacteria from commensal bacteria and contributes to host defense in the intestine.

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