Effects of Gasdermin D in Modulating Murine Lupus and its Associated Organ Damage

Arthritis Rheumatol. 2020 Dec;72(12):2118-2129. doi: 10.1002/art.41444. Epub 2020 Oct 17.


Objective: Gasdermin D (GSDMD) is the key executioner of an inflammatory cell death mechanism known as pyroptosis. Recent reports have also implicated GSDMD in other mechanisms of cell death, including apoptosis, necroptosis, and NETosis. Given the role of dysregulated cell death in autoimmune syndromes such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), this study was undertaken in a murine lupus model to investigate whether GSDMD plays a pathogenic role in systemic autoimmunity by promoting inflammatory cell death, leading to increased generation of nuclear autoantigens and autoantibodies.

Methods: An imiquimod-induced model of SLE was tested in GSDMD-/- mice (n = 30), with wild-type (WT) mice as controls (n = 34), on a C57BL/6 background. At the time of euthanasia, the mice were examined for serum autoantibodies, immune complex deposition, organ inflammation, immune dysregulation, and type I interferon responses. A model of pristane-induced lung injury in GSDMD-/- mice (n = 7), with WT mice as controls (n = 10), was used to confirm the pulmonary phenotype. Regulation of various mechanisms of cell death by GSDMD was investigated in the mice.

Results: Unexpectedly, GSDMD-/- mice developed enhanced mortality, more severe renal and pulmonary inflammation, and exacerbated autoantibody production in response to imiquimod. Pulmonary involvement was also more severe in the absence of GSDMD in mice with pristane-induced lung injury. Compared to WT mice, lack of GSDMD was associated with increased levels of circulating nuclear autoantigens (P < 0.01), anti-double-stranded DNA autoantibodies (P < 0.01), tissue immune complex deposition (P < 0.05), expansion of myeloid cell subsets (P < 0.05), and enhanced B cell activation and plasma cell differentiation (P = 0.001). Moreover, in the absence of GSDMD, enhanced autoantigen generation was associated with increased local induction of cell death in vivo.

Conclusion: GSDMD negatively regulates autoantigen generation and immune dysregulation in response to tissue injury and may play previously unappreciated protective roles in systemic autoimmunity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoantibodies / blood
  • Autoimmunity
  • Cell Death / physiology*
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • DNA / immunology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Imiquimod
  • Inflammation / genetics
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / genetics
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / chemically induced
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / genetics
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Phosphate-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Phosphate-Binding Proteins / metabolism*


  • Autoantibodies
  • Gsdmd protein, mouse
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Phosphate-Binding Proteins
  • DNA
  • Imiquimod