Suppression of ribosomal function triggers innate immune signaling through activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome

Meghan L. Vyleta, John Wong, Bruce E. Magun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Some inflammatory stimuli trigger activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome by inducing efflux of cellular potassium. Loss of cellular potassium is known to potently suppress protein synthesis, leading us to test whether the inhibition of protein synthesis itself serves as an activating signal for the NLRP3 inflammasome. Murine bone marrow-derived macrophages, either primed by LPS or unprimed, were exposed to a panel of inhibitors of ribosomal function: ricin, cycloheximide, puromycin, pactamycin, and anisomycin. Macrophages were also exposed to nigericin, ATP, monosodium urate (MSU), and poly I:C. Synthesis of pro-IL-ß and release of IL-1ß from cells in response to these agents was detected by immunoblotting and ELISA. Release of intracellular potassium was measured by mass spectrometry. Inhibition of translation by each of the tested translation inhibitors led to processing of IL-1ß, which was released from cells. Processing and release of IL-1ß was reduced or absent from cells deficient in NLRP3, ASC, or caspase-1, demonstrating the role of the NLRP3 inflammasome. Despite the inability of these inhibitors to trigger efflux of intracellular potassium, the addition of high extracellular potassium suppressed activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome. MSU and double-stranded RNA, which are known to activate the NLRP3 inflammasome, also substantially inhibited protein translation, supporting a close association between inhibition of translation and inflammasome activation. These data demonstrate that translational inhibition itself constitutes a heretofore-unrecognized mechanism underlying IL-1ß dependent inflammatory signaling and that other physical, chemical, or pathogen-associated agents that impair translation may lead to IL-1ß-dependent inflammation through activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome. For agents that inhibit translation through decreased cellular potassium, the application of high extracellular potassium restores protein translation and suppresses activation of the NLRP inflammasome. For agents that inhibit translation through mechanisms that do not involve loss of potassium, high extracellular potassium suppresses IL-1ß processing through a mechanism that remains undefined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere36044
JournalPloS one
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 14 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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