The microglial NLRP3 inflammasome is activated by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis proteins

Glia. 2020 Feb;68(2):407-421. doi: 10.1002/glia.23728. Epub 2019 Oct 9.


Microglial NLRP3 inflammasome activation is emerging as a key contributor to neuroinflammation during neurodegeneration. Pathogenic protein aggregates such as β-amyloid and α-synuclein trigger microglial NLRP3 activation, leading to caspase-1 activation and IL-1β secretion. Both caspase-1 and IL-1β contribute to disease progression in the mouse SOD1G93A model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), suggesting a role for microglial NLRP3. Prior studies, however, suggested SOD1G93A mice microglia do not express NLRP3, and SOD1G93A protein generated IL-1β in microglia independent to NLRP3. Here, we demonstrate using Nlrp3-GFP gene knock-in mice that microglia express NLRP3 in SOD1G93A mice. We show that both aggregated and soluble SOD1G93A activates inflammasome in primary mouse microglia leading caspase-1 and IL-1β cleavage, ASC speck formation, and the secretion of IL-1β in a dose- and time-dependent manner. Importantly, SOD1G93A was unable to induce IL-1β secretion from microglia deficient for Nlrp3, or pretreated with the specific NLRP3 inhibitor MCC950, confirming NLRP3 as the key inflammasome complex mediating SOD1-induced microglial IL-1β secretion. Microglial NLRP3 upregulation was also observed in the TDP-43Q331K ALS mouse model, and TDP-43 wild-type and mutant proteins could also activate microglial inflammasomes in a NLRP3-dependent manner. Mechanistically, we identified the generation of reactive oxygen species and ATP as key events required for SOD1G93A -mediated NLRP3 activation. Taken together, our data demonstrate that ALS microglia express NLRP3, and that pathological ALS proteins activate the microglial NLRP3 inflammasome. NLRP3 inhibition may therefore be a potential therapeutic approach to arrest microglial neuroinflammation and ALS disease progression.

Keywords: IL-1β; glia; innate immunity; motor neuron disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / metabolism*
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / pathology
  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Inflammasomes / metabolism*
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Microglia / metabolism*
  • NLR Family, Pyrin Domain-Containing 3 Protein / metabolism*
  • Superoxide Dismutase-1 / genetics


  • Inflammasomes
  • NLR Family, Pyrin Domain-Containing 3 Protein
  • NLRP3 protein, human
  • Nlrp3 protein, mouse
  • Superoxide Dismutase-1