Severe asthma (SA) is a chronic lung disease characterized by recurring symptoms of reversible airflow obstruction, airway hyper-responsiveness (AHR), and inflammation that is resistant to currently employed treatments. The nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain-like Receptor Family Pyrin Domain Containing 3 (NLRP3) inflammasome is an intracellular sensor that detects microbial motifs and endogenous danger signals and represents a key component of innate immune responses in the airways. Assembly of the NLRP3 inflammasome leads to caspase 1-dependent release of the pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-1β and IL-18 as well as pyroptosis. Accumulating evidence proposes that NLRP3 activation is critically involved in asthma pathogenesis. In fact, although NLRP3 facilitates the clearance of pathogens in the airways, persistent NLRP3 activation by inhaled irritants and/or innocuous environmental allergens can lead to overt pulmonary inflammation and exacerbation of asthma manifestations. Notably, administration of NLRP3 inhibitors in asthma models restrains AHR and pulmonary inflammation. Here, we provide an overview of the pathophysiology of SA, present molecular mechanisms underlying aberrant inflammatory responses in the airways, summarize recent studies pertinent to the biology and functions of NLRP3, and discuss the role of NLRP3 in the pathogenesis of asthma. Finally, we contemplate the potential of targeting NLRP3 as a novel therapeutic approach for the management of SA.
Keywords: IL-1β; NLRP3; allergic airway inflammation; immune regulation; innate immunity; severe asthma.