Macrophage release of 17 kDa IL-12 is a highly regulated event that extends beyond the macrophage's ability to transcribe and synthesize the precursor, 31 kDa proIL-12. This event is centered upon activation of the enzyme caspase-1 and involves a complex protein assemblage termed the inflammasome. Inflammasome components are homologues of an ancient innate host defense system that exists in both plants and animals. The present proposal seeks to expand upon the clues derived from the macrophage biology of IL-12 and extend these processes to the basics of the host response to sepsis. We have recent data to demonstrate that key components of this intracellular inflammasome complex contribute significantly to the devastating activation of the innate host response that defines septic shock. More specifically, caspase-1, the central target of the inflammasome has been directly linked to sepsis. Not only are caspase-1 knockout animals protected from sepsis mortality but individual components of the caspase-1 inflammasome complex (e.g., caspase-5, ASC and NALP1) have also been linked to sepsis outcomes. These proteins interact with each other via caspase recruitment domains (CARDs) and structurally related pyrin domains (PYDs). Our hypothesis is that posttranslational events centered upon these CARD and PYD domains are central to the pathogenesis of sepsis. Inflammasome assembly not only regulates the processing and activation of inflammatory cytokines like IL-12 and IL-18 but extends to the regulation of NF-?B and host cell apoptosis. The current proposal seeks to apply these exciting breakthroughs in the biology of macrophage function to the challenge of sepsis. We know that one of the key regulatory events in inflammasome assembly is the triggering of CARD/CARD and PYD/PYD interactions. We have recently demonstrated that regulating CARD-containing molecules (e.g., RIP2 and ASC) can direct the caspase-1 centered inflammatory response either toward NF-?B or toward IL-12 processing. Interestingly, these events involve an early phosphorylation event since inhibition of tyrosine kinase activity profoundly affects the inflammasome and also protects animals from sepsis. Thus, this proposal seeks to dissect the molecular details of how these events are regulated. The central hypothesis is that the master regulatory switch that determines the direction and severity of the pro and anti-inflammatory responses to septic challenge are controlled in the cytosol by specific CARD/CARD and PYD/PYD interactions. We will dissect the mechanisms that regulate the ability of caspase-1 and RIP2 to interact, traffic to membranes and then direct host inflammation. These events initially induce NF-?B activation but subsequently, via caspase-1 catalytic activation, may finally induce apoptosis and down regulation of NF-?B events. These studies will improve our understanding of the basic innate host responses to sepsis and in doing so uncover novel therapeutic approaches to septic shock and other inflammatory disorders that are regulated by this caspase-1-centric process.

Public Health Relevance

Septic shock, the whole body injury that can occur as a result of overwhelming infections, is common and represents the cause of over 200,000 deaths annually in the United States. In this context, the body's response to infectious agents involves newly described sensing proteins that we believe are critical to the defense against the injuries. This proposal seeks to understand how these defense proteins react with infectious agents to regulate cell death and inflammatory responses, particularly in the context of sepsis.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
Research Project (R01)
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Lung Cellular, Molecular, and Immunobiology Study Section (LCMI)
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Sarkar, Rita
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Ohio State University
Internal Medicine/Medicine
Schools of Medicine
United States
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