Recognition of bacteria by inflammasomes

Annu Rev Immunol. 2013;31:73-106. doi: 10.1146/annurev-immunol-032712-095944. Epub 2012 Nov 26.


Inflammasomes are cytosolic multiprotein complexes that assemble in response to a variety of infectious and noxious insults. Inflammasomes play a critical role in the initiation of innate immune responses, primarily by serving as platforms for the activation of inflammatory caspase proteases. One such caspase, CASPASE-1 (CASP1), initiates innate immune responses by cleaving pro-IL-1β and pro-IL-18, leading to their activation and release. CASP1 and another inflammatory caspase termed CASP11 can also initiate a rapid and inflammatory form of cell death termed pyroptosis. Several distinct inflammasomes have been described, each of which contains a unique sensor protein of the NLR (nucleotide-binding domain, leucine-rich repeat-containing) superfamily or the PYHIN (PYRIN and HIN-200 domain-containing) superfamily. Here we describe the surprisingly diverse mechanisms by which NLR/PYHIN proteins sense bacteria and initiate innate immune responses. We conclude that inflammasomes represent a highly adaptable scaffold ideally suited for detecting and initiating rapid innate responses to diverse and rapidly evolving bacteria.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacillus anthracis / pathogenicity
  • Bacteria / pathogenicity*
  • CARD Signaling Adaptor Proteins / metabolism
  • CARD Signaling Adaptor Proteins / physiology
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / physiology
  • Flagella / metabolism
  • Flagella / physiology
  • Humans
  • Inflammasomes / genetics
  • Inflammasomes / metabolism*
  • Inflammasomes / physiology
  • Legionella pneumophila / pathogenicity
  • Listeria monocytogenes / pathogenicity
  • Salmonella typhimurium / pathogenicity


  • CARD Signaling Adaptor Proteins
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Inflammasomes
  • NLRC4 protein, human