Inflammasomes comprise a family of cytosolic multi-protein complexes that sense infection, or other threats, and initiate inflammation via the recruitment and activation of the Caspase-1 protease. Although the precise molecular mechanism by which most inflammasomes are activated remains a subject of considerable debate, the NAIP/NLRC4 subfamily of inflammasomes is increasingly well understood. A crystal structure of NLRC4 was recently reported, and a domain in NAIPs that recognizes bacterial ligands was identified. In addition, gain-of-function mutations in NLRC4 have been shown to cause an auto-inflammatory syndrome in humans. Lastly, the NAIP/NLRC4 inflammasome has been shown to provide a novel form of cell intrinsic defense against Salmonella infection, involving expulsion of infected cells from the intestinal epithelium.
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