Dimerization and auto-processing induce caspase-11 protease activation within the non-canonical inflammasome

Life Sci Alliance. 2018 Dec 6;1(6):e201800237. doi: 10.26508/lsa.201800237. eCollection 2018 Dec.


Caspase-11 is a cytosolic sensor and protease that drives innate immune responses to the bacterial cell wall component, LPS. Caspase-11 provides defence against cytosolic Gram-negative bacteria; however, excessive caspase-11 responses contribute to murine endotoxic shock. Upon sensing LPS, caspase-11 assembles a higher order structure called the non-canonical inflammasome that enables the activation of caspase-11 protease function, leading to gasdermin D cleavage and cell death. The mechanism by which caspase-11 acquires protease function is, however, poorly defined. Here, we show that caspase-11 dimerization is necessary and sufficient for eliciting basal caspase-11 protease function, such as the ability to auto-cleave. We further show that during non-canonical inflammasome signalling, caspase-11 self-cleaves at site (D285) within the linker connecting the large and small enzymatic subunits. Self-cleavage at the D285 site is required to generate the fully active caspase-11 protease (proposed here to be p32/p10) that mediates gasdermin D cleavage, macrophage death, and NLRP3-dependent IL-1β production. This study provides a detailed molecular mechanism by which LPS induces caspase-11-driven inflammation and cell death to provide host defence against cytosolic bacterial infection.