Inflammasomes are important mediators of cyclophosphamide-induced bladder inflammation

Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2014 Feb 1;306(3):F299-308. doi: 10.1152/ajprenal.00297.2013. Epub 2013 Nov 27.


Bladder inflammation (cystitis) underlies numerous bladder pathologies and is elicited by a plethora of agents such as urinary tract infections, bladder outlet obstruction, chemotherapies, and catheters. Pattern recognition receptors [Toll-like receptors (TLRs) and Nod-like receptors (NLRs)] that recognize pathogen- and/or damage-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs and/or DAMPs, respectively) are key components of the innate immune system that coordinates the production (TLRs) and maturation (NLRs) of proinflammatory IL-1β. Despite multiple studies of TLRs in the bladder, none have investigated NLRs beyond one small survey. We now demonstrate that NLRP3 and NLRC4, and their binding partners apoptosis-associated speck-like protein containing a COOH-terminal caspase recruitment domain (ASC) and NLR family apoptosis inhibitory protein (NAIP), are expressed in the bladder and localized predominantly to the urothelia. Activated NLRs form inflammasomes that activate caspase-1. Placement of a NLRP3- or NLRC4-activating PAMP or NLRP3-activating DAMPs into the lumen of the bladder stimulated caspase-1 activity. To investigate inflammasomes in vivo, we induced cystitis with cyclophosphamide (CP, 150 mg/kg ip) in the presence or absence of the inflammasome inhibitor glyburide. Glyburide completely blocked CP-induced activation of caspase-1 and the production of IL-1β at 4 h. At 24 h, glyburide reduced two markers of inflammation by 30-50% and reversed much of the inflammatory morphology. Furthermore, glyburide reversed changes in bladder physiology (cystometry) induced by CP. In conclusion, NLRs/inflammasomes are present in the bladder urothelia and respond to DAMPs and PAMPs, whereas NLRP3 inhibition blocks bladder dysfunction in the CP model. The coordinated response of NLRs and TLRs in the urothelia represents a first-line innate defense that may provide an important target for pharmacological intervention.

Keywords: bladder; caspase-1; cystitis; inflammasome; inflammation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Cyclophosphamide
  • Cystitis / chemically induced
  • Cystitis / immunology
  • Female
  • Glyburide / pharmacology
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Inflammasomes / physiology*
  • NLR Family, Pyrin Domain-Containing 3 Protein
  • Neuronal Apoptosis-Inhibitory Protein / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / metabolism*
  • Toll-Like Receptors / immunology
  • Urinary Bladder / immunology*


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Inflammasomes
  • NLR Family, Pyrin Domain-Containing 3 Protein
  • NLRC4 protein, rat
  • Naip6 protein, rat
  • Neuronal Apoptosis-Inhibitory Protein
  • Nlrp3 protein, rat
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear
  • Toll-Like Receptors
  • Cyclophosphamide
  • Glyburide