Inflammasomes are inflammatory signaling complexes that provide molecular platforms to activate the protease function of inflammatory caspases. Caspases-1, -4, -5, and -11 are inflammatory caspases activated by inflammasomes to drive lytic cell death and inflammatory mediator production, thereby activating host-protective and pathological immune responses. Here, we comprehensively review the mechanisms that govern the activity of inflammatory caspases. We discuss inflammatory caspase activation and deactivation mechanisms, alongside the physiological importance of caspase activity kinetics. We also examine mechanisms of caspase substrate selection and how inflammasome and cell identities influence caspase activity and resultant inflammatory and pyroptotic cellular programs. Understanding how inflammatory caspases are regulated may offer new strategies for treating infection and inflammasome-driven disease.
Keywords: ASC; caspase-1; caspase-11; inflammasome; protease activation; pyroptosis.