Plasma Membrane Pores Drive Inflammatory Cell Death

Front Cell Dev Biol. 2020 Aug 21:8:817. doi: 10.3389/fcell.2020.00817. eCollection 2020.


Necroptosis and pyroptosis are two forms of regulated cell death. They are executed by the proteins mixed-lineage kinase domain-like (MLKL) and gasdermin D (GSDMD), respectively. Once activated by numerous pathways, these proteins form membrane pores that allow the influx and efflux of various ions, proteins, and water, ultimately resulting in the death of the cell. These modalities of cell death are considered highly inflammatory because of the release of inflammatory cytokines and damage-associated molecular patterns, and are thereby not only deleterious for the dying cell itself, but also its environment or the entire organism. The relevance for these processes has been observed in various physiological and pathophysiological conditions, ranging from viral and bacterial infections over autoimmune and chronic inflammatory diseases to ischemic organ damage. In recent years, initial in vitro experiments have shed light on a range of connections between necroptosis and pyroptosis. Initial in vivo studies also indicate that, in many disease models, these two forms of cell death cannot be considered individually, as they demonstrate a complex interaction. In this article, we provide an overview of the currently known structure, pathways of activation, and functions of MLKL and GSDMD. With emerging evidence for an interconnection between necroptosis and pyroptosis in not only in vitro, but also in vivo models of disease, we highlight in particular the clinical relevance of the crosslinks between these two forms of inflammatory cell death and their implications for novel therapeutic strategies in a variety of diseases.

Keywords: GSDMD; MLKL; necroinflammation; necroptosis; pyroptosis; regulated cell death.

Publication types

  • Review