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Diverse small molecules prevent macrophage lysis during pyroptosis

Loomis, WP;den Hartigh, AB;Cookson, BT;Fink, SL;

Pyroptosis is a programmed process of proinflammatory cell death mediated by caspase-1-related proteases that cleave the pore-forming protein, gasdermin D, causing cell lysis and release of inflammatory intracellular contents. The amino acid glycine prevents pyroptotic lysis via unknown mechanisms, without affecting caspase-1 activation or pore formation. Pyroptosis plays a critical role in diverse inflammatory diseases, including sepsis. Septic lethality is prevented by glycine treatment, suggesting that glycine-mediated cytoprotection may provide therapeutic benefit. In this study, we systematically examined a panel of small molecules, structurally related to glycine, for their ability to prevent pyroptotic lysis. We found a requirement for the carboxyl group, and limited tolerance for larger amino groups and substitution of the hydrogen R group. Glycine is an agonist for the neuronal glycine receptor, which acts as a ligand-gated chloride channel. The array of cytoprotective small molecules we identified resembles that of known glycine receptor modulators. However, using genetically deficient Glrb mutant macrophages, we found that the glycine receptor is not required for pyroptotic cytoprotection. Furthermore, protection against pyroptotic lysis is independent of extracellular chloride conductance, arguing against an effect mediated by ligand-gated chloride channels. Finally, we conducted a small-scale, hypothesis-driven small-molecule screen and identified unexpected ion channel modulators that prevent pyroptotic lysis with increased potency compared to glycine. Together, these findings demonstrate that pyroptotic lysis can be pharmacologically modulated and pave the way toward identification of therapeutic strategies for pathologic conditions associated with pyroptosis.