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Caspase-1 has both proinflammatory and regulatory properties in Helicobacter infections, which are differentially mediated by its substrates IL-1 and IL-18

Hitzler, I;Sayi, A;Kohler, E;Engler, DB;Koch, KN;Hardt, WD;Mller, A;

The proinflammatory cysteine protease caspase-1 is autocatalytically activated upon cytosolic sensing of a variety of pathogen-associated molecular patterns by Nod-like receptors. Active caspase-1 processes pro-IL-1 and pro-IL-18 to generate the bioactive cytokines and to initiate pathogen-specific immune responses. Little information is available on caspase-1 and inflammasome activation during infection with the gastric bacterial pathogen Helicobacter pylori. In this study, we addressed a possible role for caspase-1 and its cytokine substrates in the spontaneous and vaccine-induced control of Helicobacter infection, as well as the development of gastritis and gastric cancer precursor lesions, using a variety of experimental infection, vaccine-induced protection, and gastric disease models. We show that caspase-1 is activated and IL-1 and IL-18 are processed in vitro and in vivo as a consequence of Helicobacter infection. Caspase-1 activation and IL-1 signaling are absolutely required for the efficient control of Helicobacter infection in vaccinated mice. IL-1R(-/-) mice fail to develop protective immunity but are protected against Helicobacter-associated gastritis and gastric preneoplasia as a result of their inability to generate Helicobacter-specific Th1 and Th17 responses. In contrast, IL-18 is dispensable for vaccine-induced protective immunity but essential for preventing excessive T cell-driven immunopathology. IL-18(-/-) animals develop strongly accelerated pathology that is accompanied by unrestricted Th17 responses. In conclusion, we show in this study that the processing and release of a regulatory caspase-1 substrate, IL-18, counteracts the proinflammatory activities of another caspase-1 substrate, IL-1, thereby balancing control of the infection with the prevention of excessive gastric immunopathology.