Cellular & Molecular Immunology
The NLRP3 inflammasome plays a crucial role in innate immune-mediated inflammation and contributes to the pathogenesis of multiple autoinflammatory, metabolic and neurodegenerative diseases, but medications targeting the NLRP3 inflammasome are not available for clinical use. RRx-001 is a well-tolerated anticancer agent currently being investigated in phase III clinical trials, but its effects on inflammatory diseases are not known. Here, we show that RRx-001 is a highly selective and potent NLRP3 inhibitor that has strong beneficial effects on NLRP3-driven inflammatory diseases. RRx-001 inhibits the activation of the canonical, noncanonical, and alternative NLRP3 inflammasomes but not the AIM2, NLRC4 or Pyrin inflammasomes. Mechanistically, RRx-001 covalently binds to cysteine 409 of NLRP3 via its bromoacetyl group and therefore blocks the NLRP3-NEK7 interaction, which is critical for the assembly and activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome. More importantly, RRx-001 treatment attenuates the symptoms of lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced systemic inflammation, dextran sulfate sodium (DSS)-induced colitis and experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) in mice. Thus, our study identifies RRx-001 as a new potential therapeutic agent for NLRP3-driven diseases.