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Andrew R. Griswold, Hsin-Che Huang, Daniel A. Bachovchin; The NLRP1 Inflammasome Induces Pyroptosis in Human Corneal Epithelial Cells. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2022;63(3):2. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/iovs.63.3.2.
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Inflammasomes are multiprotein complexes that detect danger-associated signals and trigger an immunostimulatory form of cell death called pyroptosis. NLRP1 is an innate immune receptor that assembles into an inflammasome, but the primary cell types in which NLRP1 is functional have not yet been fully established. Mutations in NLRP1 are associated with diseases of barrier epithelial tissues, including skin lesions and corneal intraepithelial dyskeratosis, suggesting that NLRP1 functions within the eye. Here, we investigated the expression and activity of the NLRP1 inflammasome in primary human corneal epithelial (pHCE) cells.
The small molecule Val-boroPro (VbP) activates the NLRP1 inflammasome. Proteasome (bortezomib, MG132) and caspase-1 (VX-765, Z-VAD-FMK) inhibitors block NLRP1 activation and downstream pyroptosis, respectively. Here, we treated pHCE cells with VbP alone or in combination proteasome inhibitors and caspase-1 inhibitors. We assessed NLRP1 expression and hallmarks of pyroptosis, including lytic cell rupture, cytokine processing and release, and gasdermin D (GSDMD) processing.
VbP triggered pyroptosis in pHCE cells, as determined by cytokine secretion, GSDMD processing, and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) release. Proteasome and caspase-1 inhibitors completely blocked this pyroptotic cell death. In contrast, other primary ocular epithelial cells did not undergo NLRP1-dependent pyroptosis.
Our findings demonstrate that NLRP1 forms a functional inflammasome in pHCE cells. Importantly, these data reveal that NLRP1 is a key innate immune sensor of the corneal epithelium, and moreover indicate how aberrant inflammasome activation causes corneal damage. Blockade of NLRP1 signaling may benefit patients with hyperactive NLRP1 mutations and warrants further investigation.
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