The innate immune system represents the host's first-line defense against pathogens, dead cells or environmental factors. One of the most important inflammatory pathways is represented by the activation of the NOD-like receptor (NLR) protein family. Some NLRs induce the assembly of large caspase-1-activating complexes called inflammasomes. Different types of inflammasomes have been identified that can respond to distinct bacterial, viral or fungal infections; sterile cell damage or other stressors, such as metabolic imbalances. Epigenetic regulation has been recently suggested to provide a complementary mechanism to control inflammasome activity. This regulation can be exerted through at least three main mechanisms, including CpG DNA methylation, histones post-translational modifications and noncoding RNA expression. The repression or promotion of expression of different inflammasomes (NLRP1, NLRP2, NLRP3, NLRP4, NLRP6, NLRP7, NLRP12 and AIM2) through epigenetic mechanisms determines the development of pathologies with variable severity. For example, our team recently explored the role of microRNAs (miRNAs) targeting and modulating the components of the inflammasome as potential biomarkers in bladder cancer and during therapy. This suggests that the epigenetic control of inflammasome-related genes could represent a potential target for further investigations of molecular mechanisms regulating inflammatory pathways.
Keywords: epigenetic modifications; inflammasome; microRNA.