The inflammasomes: molecular effectors of host resistance against bacterial, viral, parasitic, and fungal infections

Front Microbiol. 2011 Feb 17;2:15. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2011.00015. eCollection 2011.


The inflammasomes are large multi-protein complexes scaffolded by cytosolic pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) that form an important part of the innate immune system. They are activated following the recognition of microbial-associated molecular patterns or host-derived danger signals (danger-associated molecular patterns) by PRRs. This recognition results in the recruitment and activation of the pro-inflammatory protease caspase-1, which cleaves its preferred substrates pro-interleukin-1β (IL-1β) and pro-IL-18 into their mature biologically active cytokine forms. Through processing of a number of other cellular substrates, caspase-1 is also required for the release of "alarmins" and the induction and execution of an inflammatory form of cell death termed pyroptosis. A growing spectrum of inflammasomes have been identified in the host defense against a variety of pathogens. Reciprocally, pathogens have evolved effector strategies to antagonize the inflammasome pathway. In this review we discuss recent developments in the understanding of inflammasome-mediated recognition of bacterial, viral, parasitic, and fungal infections and the beneficial or detrimental effects of inflammasome signaling in host resistance.

Keywords: Nod-like receptors; caspases; infection; inflammasome; inflammation; innate immunity.