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Annu Rev Immunol. 2013;31:73-106. doi: 10.1146/annurev-immunol-032712-095944. Epub 2012 Nov 26.

Recognition of bacteria by inflammasomes.

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Department of Molecular & Cell Biology, Division of Immunology and Pathogenesis, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, USA.


Inflammasomes are cytosolic multiprotein complexes that assemble in response to a variety of infectious and noxious insults. Inflammasomes play a critical role in the initiation of innate immune responses, primarily by serving as platforms for the activation of inflammatory caspase proteases. One such caspase, CASPASE-1 (CASP1), initiates innate immune responses by cleaving pro-IL-1β and pro-IL-18, leading to their activation and release. CASP1 and another inflammatory caspase termed CASP11 can also initiate a rapid and inflammatory form of cell death termed pyroptosis. Several distinct inflammasomes have been described, each of which contains a unique sensor protein of the NLR (nucleotide-binding domain, leucine-rich repeat-containing) superfamily or the PYHIN (PYRIN and HIN-200 domain-containing) superfamily. Here we describe the surprisingly diverse mechanisms by which NLR/PYHIN proteins sense bacteria and initiate innate immune responses. We conclude that inflammasomes represent a highly adaptable scaffold ideally suited for detecting and initiating rapid innate responses to diverse and rapidly evolving bacteria.

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