JOURNAL ARTICLE

Enhanced activity of NLRP3 inflammasome in peripheral blood cells of patients with active rheumatoid arthritis

Christianna Choulaki, Garyfallia Papadaki, Argyro Repa, Eleni Kampouraki, Konstantinos Kambas, Konstantinos Ritis, George Bertsias, Dimitrios T Boumpas, Prodromos Sidiropoulos
Arthritis Research & Therapy 2015 September 19, 17: 257
26385789

INTRODUCTION: Interleukin-1β (IL-1β) is a major inflammatory cytokine, produced predominantly by innate immune cells through NLRP3-inflammasome activation. Both intrinsic and extrinsic danger signals may activate NLRP3. Genetic variations in NLRP3-inflammasome components have been reported to influence rheumatoid arthritis (RA) susceptibility and severity. We sought to assess the activity of NLRP3-inflammasome in patients with active RA compared to healthy individuals.

METHOD: Intracellular protein expression of NLRP3, ASC, pro- and active caspase-1, pro- and active IL-1β was assessed by immunoblotting both at baseline and upon inflammasome activation. NLRP3 function (IL-1β secretion) was assessed upon priming of TLR2 (Pam(3)CysSK(4), TLR3 (poly(I:C)) or TLR4 (LPS) and ATP sequential treatment. We used caspase inhibitors (casp-1, 3/7 and 8) to assess their contribution to IL-1β maturation. All experiments were performed in whole blood cells.

RESULTS: Active RA patients (n = 11) expressed higher basal intracellular levels of NLRP3 (p < 0.008), ASC (p < 0.003), active caspase-1 (p < 0.02) and pro-IL-1β (p < 0.001). Upon priming with TLR4 (LPS) and ATP, RA-derived cell extracts (n = 7) displayed increased expression of NLRP3 (p < 0.01) and active caspase-1 (p < 0.001). Secreted IL-1β in culture supernatants from whole blood cells activated with TLR4 (LPS) or TLR3 agonist (poly(I:C)) plus ATP was higher in RA patients (n = 20) versus controls (n = 18) (p < 0.02 for both). Caspase-1 inhibition significantly reduced IL-1β secretion induced by all stimuli, whereas caspase-8 inhibition affected only TLR4 and TLR3 cell priming.

CONCLUSION: Patients with active RA have increased expression of NLRP3 and NLRP3-mediated IL-1β secretion in whole blood cells upon stimulation via TLR3 and TLR4 but not TLR2. In these patients, IL-1β secretion seems to be predominately driven by caspase-1 and caspase-8. Targeting NLRP3 or downstream caspases may be of benefit in suppressing IL-1β production in RA.

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