The kinases RIPK1 and RIPK3 and the pseudo-kinase MLKL have been identified as key regulators of the necroptotic cell death pathway, although a role for MLKL within the whole animal has not yet been established. Here, we have shown that MLKL deficiency rescued the embryonic lethality caused by loss of Caspase-8 or FADD. Casp8(-/-)Mlkl(-/-) and Fadd(-/-)Mlkl(-/-) mice were viable and fertile but rapidly developed severe lymphadenopathy, systemic autoimmune disease, and thrombocytopenia. These morbidities occurred more rapidly and with increased severity in Casp8(-/-)Mlkl(-/-) and Fadd(-/-)Mlkl(-/-) mice compared to Casp8(-/-)Ripk3(-/-) or Fadd(-/-)Ripk3(-/-) mice, respectively. These results demonstrate that MLKL is an essential effector of aberrant necroptosis in embryos caused by loss of Caspase-8 or FADD. Furthermore, they suggest that RIPK3 and/or MLKL may exert functions independently of necroptosis. It appears that non-necroptotic functions of RIPK3 contribute to the lymphadenopathy, autoimmunity, and excess cytokine production that occur when FADD or Caspase-8-mediated apoptosis is abrogated.
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