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Detection of Inflammasome Activation and Pyroptotic Cell Death in Murine Bone Marrow-derived Macrophages

den Hartigh, AB;Fink, SL;

Inflammasomes are innate immune signaling platforms that are required for the successful control of many pathogenic organisms, but also promote inflammatory and autoinflammatory diseases. Inflammasomes are activated by cytosolic pattern recognition receptors, including members of the NOD-like receptor (NLR) family. These receptors oligomerize upon the detection of microbial or damage-associated stimuli. Subsequent recruitment of the adaptor protein ASC forms a microscopically visible inflammasome complex, which activates caspase-1 through proximity-induced auto-activation. Following the activation, caspase-1 cleaves pro-IL-1 and pro-IL-18, leading to the activation and secretion of these pro-inflammatory cytokines. Caspase-1 also mediates the inflammatory form of cell death termed pyroptosis, which features the loss of membrane integrity and cell lysis. Caspase-1 cleaves gasdermin D, releasing the N-terminal fragment which forms plasma membrane pores, leading to osmotic lysis. In vitro, the activation of caspase-1 can be determined by labeling bone marrow-derived macrophages with the caspase-1 activity probe FAM-YVAD-FMK and by labeling the cells with antibodies against the adaptor protein ASC. This technique allows the identification of inflammasome formation and caspase-1 activation in individual cells using fluorescence microscopy. Pyroptotic cell death can be detected by measuring the release of cytosolic lactate dehydrogenase into the medium. This procedure is simple, cost effective and performed in a 96-well plate format, allowing adaptation for screening. In this manuscript, we show that activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome by nigericin leads to the co-localization of the adaptor protein ASC and active caspase-1, leading to pyroptosis.