Human GBP1 is a microbe-specific gatekeeper of macrophage apoptosis and pyroptosis

EMBO J. 2019 Jul 1;38(13):e100926. doi: 10.15252/embj.2018100926. Epub 2019 Jun 3.


The guanylate binding protein (GBP) family of interferon-inducible GTPases promotes antimicrobial immunity and cell death. During bacterial infection, multiple mouse Gbps, human GBP2, and GBP5 support the activation of caspase-1-containing inflammasome complexes or caspase-4 which trigger pyroptosis. Whether GBPs regulate other forms of cell death is not known. The apicomplexan parasite Toxoplasma gondii causes macrophage death through unidentified mechanisms. Here we report that Toxoplasma-induced death of human macrophages requires GBP1 and its ability to target Toxoplasma parasitophorous vacuoles through its GTPase activity and prenylation. Mechanistically, GBP1 promoted Toxoplasma detection by AIM2, which induced GSDMD-independent, ASC-, and caspase-8-dependent apoptosis. Identical molecular determinants targeted GBP1 to Salmonella-containing vacuoles. GBP1 facilitated caspase-4 recruitment to Salmonella leading to its enhanced activation and pyroptosis. Notably, GBP1 could be bypassed by the delivery of Toxoplasma DNA or bacterial LPS into the cytosol, pointing to its role in liberating microbial molecules. GBP1 thus acts as a gatekeeper of cell death pathways, which respond specifically to infecting microbes. Our findings expand the immune roles of human GBPs in regulating not only pyroptosis, but also apoptosis.

Keywords: Toxoplasma gondii; Salmonella Typhimurium; apoptosis; caspases; pyroptosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Caspases, Initiator / metabolism
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Macrophages / parasitology*
  • Protein Prenylation
  • Pyroptosis
  • THP-1 Cells
  • Toxoplasma / pathogenicity*
  • Toxoplasmosis / metabolism*
  • Toxoplasmosis / parasitology


  • AIM2 protein, human
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • GBP1 protein, human
  • CASP4 protein, human
  • Caspases, Initiator
  • GTP-Binding Proteins