Microglia are important innate immune effectors against invading CNS pathogens, such as Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus), a common etiological agent of brain abscesses typified by widespread inflammation and necrosis. The NLRP3 inflammasome is a protein complex involved in IL-1β and IL-18 processing following exposure to both pathogen- and danger-associated molecular patterns. Although previous studies from our laboratory have established that IL-1β is a major cytokine product of S. aureus-activated microglia and is pivotal for eliciting protective anti-bacterial immunity during brain abscess development, the molecular machinery responsible for cytokine release remains to be determined. Therefore, the functional role of the NLRP3 inflammasome and its adaptor protein apoptosis-associated speck-like protein (ASC) in eliciting IL-1β and IL-18 release was examined in primary microglia. Interestingly, we found that IL-1β, but not IL-18 production, was significantly attenuated in both NLRP3 and ASC knockout microglia following exposure to live S. aureus. NLRP3 inflammasome activation was partially dependent on autocrine/paracrine ATP release and α- and γ-hemolysins produced by live bacteria. A cathepsin B inhibitor attenuated IL-β release from NLRP3 and ASC knockout microglia, demonstrating the existence of alternative inflammasome-independent mechanisms for IL-1β processing. In contrast, microglial IL-18 secretion occurred independently of cathepsin B and inflammasome action. Collectively, these results demonstrate that microglial IL-1β processing is regulated by multiple pathways and diverges from mechanisms utilized for IL-18 cleavage. Understanding the molecular events that regulate IL-1β production is important for modulating this potent proinflammatory cytokine during CNS disease.
© 2011 The Authors. Journal of Neurochemistry © 2011 International Society for Neurochemistry.