Intracellular pathogens and danger signals trigger the formation of inflammasomes, which activate inflammatory caspases and induce pyroptotic cell death. The anthrax lethal factor metalloprotease and small molecule DPP8/9 inhibitors both activate the Nlrp1b inflammasome, but the molecular mechanism of Nlrp1b activation is not known. Here, we used genome-wide CRISPR/Cas9 knockout screens to identify genes required for Nlrp1b-mediated pyroptosis, and discovered that lethal factor induces cell death via the N-end rule proteasomal degradation pathway. Lethal factor directly cleaves Nlrp1b, which induces the N-end rule-mediated degradation of the Nlrp1b N-terminus and thereby frees the Nlrp1b C-terminus to activate caspase-1. DPP8/9 inhibitors also induce proteasomal degradation of the Nlrp1b N-terminus, but, in contrast, not through the N-end rule pathway. Overall, these data reveal that N-terminal degradation is the common mechanism for activation of this innate immune sensor protein.