Inflammasomes, autophagy, and cell death: The trinity of innate host defense against intracellular bacteria

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Inflammasome activation is an innate host defense mechanism initiated upon sensing pathogens or danger in the cytosol. Both autophagy and cell death are cell autonomous processes important in development, as well as in host defense against intracellular bacteria. Inflammasome, autophagy, and cell death pathways can be activated by pathogens, pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs), cell stress, and host-derived damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs). Phagocytosis and toll-like receptor (TLR) signaling induce reactive oxygen species (ROS), type I IFN, NFκB activation of proinflammatory cytokines, and the mitogen-activated protein kinase cascade. ROS and IFNγ are also prominent inducers of autophagy. Pathogens, PAMPs, and DAMPs activate TLRs and intracellular inflammasomes, inducing apoptotic and inflammatory caspases in a context-dependent manner to promote various forms of cell death to eliminate pathogens. Common downstream signaling molecules of inflammasomes, autophagy, and cell death pathways interact to initiate appropriate measures against pathogens and determine host survival as well as pathological consequences of infection. The integration of inflammasome activation, autophagy, and cell death is central to pathogen clearance. Various pathogens produce virulence factors to control inflammasomes, subvert autophagy, and modulate host cell death in order to evade host defense. This review highlights the interaction of inflammasomes, autophagy, and host cell death pathways in counteracting Burkholderia pseudomallei, the causative agent of melioidosis. Contrasting evasion strategies used by B. pseudomallei, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and Legionella pneumophila to avoid and dampen these innate immune responses will be discussed.




Krakauer, T. (2019). Inflammasomes, autophagy, and cell death: The trinity of innate host defense against intracellular bacteria. Mediators of Inflammation. Hindawi Limited.

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