Genome Editing of Human Primary Keratinocytes by CRISPR/Cas9 Reveals an Essential Role of the NLRP1 Inflammasome in UVB Sensing

J Invest Dermatol. 2018 Dec;138(12):2644-2652. doi: 10.1016/j.jid.2018.07.016. Epub 2018 Aug 7.


By forming a protective barrier, epidermal keratinocytes represent the first line of defense against environmental insults. UVB radiation of the sun is a major challenge for the skin and can induce inflammation, aging, and eventually skin cancer. UVB induces an immune response in human keratinocytes resulting in activation and secretion of the proinflammatory cytokines proIL-1β and -18. This is mediated by an assembly of protein complexes, termed inflammasomes. However, the mechanisms underlying sensing of UVB by keratinocytes, and particularly the types of inflammasomes required for cytokine secretion, are a matter of debate. To address these questions, we established a protocol that allows the generation of CRISPR/Cas9-targeted human primary keratinocytes. Our experiments showed an essential role of the NLRP1 rather than the NLRP3 inflammasome in UVB sensing and subsequent IL-1β and -18 secretion by keratinocytes. Moreover, NLRP1 but not NLRP3 was required for inflammasome activation in response to nigericin, a potassium ionophore and well-established NLRP3 activator in immune cells. Because the CRISPR/Cas9-targeted cells retained their full differentiation capacity, genome editing of human primary keratinocytes might be useful for numerous research and medical applications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / metabolism*
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins / metabolism*
  • CRISPR-Associated Protein 9 / genetics
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Gene Editing / methods*
  • Humans
  • Inflammasomes / metabolism*
  • Interleukin-18 / metabolism
  • Interleukin-1beta / metabolism
  • Keratinocytes / physiology*
  • NLR Family, Pyrin Domain-Containing 3 Protein / metabolism
  • NLR Proteins
  • Nigericin / pharmacology
  • Primary Cell Culture
  • Radiodermatitis / genetics*
  • Radiodermatitis / metabolism
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects*


  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • Inflammasomes
  • Interleukin-18
  • Interleukin-1beta
  • NLR Family, Pyrin Domain-Containing 3 Protein
  • NLR Proteins
  • NLRP1 protein, human
  • NLRP3 protein, human
  • CRISPR-Associated Protein 9
  • Nigericin