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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Jan 29;110(5):1809-14. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1221476110. Epub 2013 Jan 7.

Role of the inflammasome in defense against venoms.

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Department of Immunobiology, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


Venoms consist of a complex mixture of toxic components that are used by a variety of animal species for defense and predation. Envenomation of mammalian species leads to an acute inflammatory response and can lead to the development of IgE-dependent venom allergy. However, the mechanisms by which the innate immune system detects envenomation and initiates inflammatory and allergic responses to venoms remain largely unknown. Here we show that bee venom is detected by the NOD-like receptor family, pyrin domain-containing 3 inflammasome and can trigger activation of caspase-1 and the subsequent processing and unconventional secretion of the leaderless proinflammatory cytokine IL-1β in macrophages. Whereas activation of the inflammasome by bee venom induces a caspase-1-dependent inflammatory response, characterized by recruitment of neutrophils to the site or envenomation, the inflammasome is dispensable for the allergic response to bee venom. Finally, we find that caspase-1-deficient mice are more susceptible to the noxious effects of bee and snake venoms, suggesting that a caspase-1-dependent immune response can protect against the damaging effects of envenomation.

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