Pyroptosis is a fulminant form of macrophage cell death, contributing to release of pro-inflammatory cytokines. In humans, it depends on caspase 1/4-activation of gasdermin D and is characterized by the release of cytoplasmic content. Pathogens apply strategies to avoid or antagonize this host response. We demonstrate here that a small accessory protein (PB1-F2) of contemporary H5N1 and H3N2 influenza A viruses (IAV) curtails fulminant cell death of infected human macrophages. Infection of macrophages with a PB1-F2-deficient mutant of a contemporary IAV resulted in higher levels of caspase-1 activation, cleavage of gasdermin D, and release of LDH and IL-1β. Mechanistically, PB1-F2 limits transition of NLRP3 from its auto-repressed and closed confirmation into its active state. Consequently, interaction of a recently identified licensing kinase NEK7 with NLRP3 is diminished, which is required to initiate inflammasome assembly.
Keywords: NEK7; NLRP3; PB1-F2; influenza A virus; pyroptosis.
© 2020 The Authors.