Key Components of Inflammasome and Pyroptosis Pathways Are Deficient in Canines and Felines, Possibly Affecting Their Response to SARS-CoV-2 Infection

Front Immunol. 2021 Jan 28:11:592622. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2020.592622. eCollection 2020.


SARS-CoV-2 causes the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Natural SARS-COV-2 infection has been detected in dogs, cats and tigers. However, the symptoms in canines and felines were mild. The underlying mechanisms are unknown. Excessive activation of inflammasome pathways can trigger cytokine storm and severe damage to host. In current study, we performed a comparative genomics study of key components of inflammasome and pyroptosis pathways in dogs, cats and tigers. Cats and tigers do not have AIM2 and NLRP1. Dogs do not contain AIM2, and encode a short form of NLRC4. The activation sites in GSDMB were absent in dogs, cats and tigers, while GSDME activation sites in cats and tigers were abolished. We propose that deficiencies of inflammasome and pyroptosis pathways might provide an evolutionary advantage against SARS-CoV-2 by reducing cytokine storm-induced host damage. Our findings will shed important lights on the mild symptoms in canines and felines infected with SARS-CoV-2.

Keywords: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus 2; canines; felines; inflammasome; pyroptosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • COVID-19 / immunology*
  • COVID-19 / veterinary*
  • Cat Diseases* / immunology
  • Cat Diseases* / virology
  • Cats
  • Cytokine Release Syndrome / genetics
  • Cytokine Release Syndrome / immunology
  • Dog Diseases* / immunology
  • Dog Diseases* / virology
  • Dogs
  • Genomics
  • Humans
  • Inflammasomes / genetics
  • Inflammasomes / immunology*
  • Pyroptosis / genetics
  • Pyroptosis / immunology*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Tigers


  • Inflammasomes