Caspase-1 plays a fundamental role in innate immunity and in several important inflammatory diseases as the protease activates the pro-inflammatory cytokines proIL-1β and proIL-18. Caspase-1 itself is activated in different inflammasome complexes, which assemble in response to a variety of exogenous and endogenous stressors. More recently, pyroptosis, a caspase-1-dependent type of programmed cell death, has been identified that is able to support secreted IL-1 and IL-18 in triggering an inflammatory response. Whereas these 'canonical' activities are well appreciated, this review also highlights less-known pathways and molecules activated by caspase-1. There is evidence that caspase-1 supports cell survival by activation of NF-κB, induction of membrane repair and regulation of unconventional secretion of certain proteins. The physiologic effects of processing of other downstream targets, such as proteins involved in glycolysis or activation of caspase-7, are less well understood. However, there is increasing evidence that caspase-1 contributes to innate and adaptive immunologic defense mechanisms, repair and pathologic conditions by the regulation of several different and partially opposing pathways.
Keywords: Caspases; IL-1; inflammasome; inflammation; unconventional protein secretion.