In response to injurious or infectious agents caspase-1 activating multiprotein complexes, termed inflammasomes, assemble in the cytoplasm of cells. Activated caspase-1 cleaves the proforms of the interleukin-1 cytokine family members leading to their activation and secretion. The IL-1 family cytokines have multiple proinflammatory activities implicating them in the pathogenesis of many inflammatory diseases. While defined ligands have been identified for the NLRP1, IPAF, and AIM2 inflammasomes, little is known about the activation mechanisms of the NLRP3 inflammasome. Numerous different molecular entities, such as various crystals, pore-forming toxins, or extracellular ATP can trigger the NLRP3 inflammasome. Recent work proposes that NLRP3 is activated indirectly by host factors that are generated in response to NLRP3 triggers.
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