The Nod-like receptor protein (NLRP)-3 inflammasome/IL-1β pathway is involved in the pathogenesis of various inflammatory skin diseases, but its biological role in wound healing remains to be elucidated. Since inflammation is typically thought to impede healing, we hypothesized that loss of NLRP-3 activity would result in a downregulated inflammatory response and accelerated wound healing. NLRP-3 null mice, caspase-1 null mice and C57Bl/6 wild type control mice (WT) received four 8 mm excisional cutaneous wounds; inflammation and healing were assessed during the early stage of wound healing. Consistent with our hypothesis, wounds from NLRP-3 null and caspase-1 null mice contained lower levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-1β and TNF-α compared to WT mice and had reduced neutrophil and macrophage accumulation. Contrary to our hypothesis, re-epithelialization, granulation tissue formation, and angiogenesis were delayed in NLRP-3 null mice and caspase-1 null mice compared to WT mice, indicating that NLRP-3 signaling is important for early events in wound healing. Topical treatment of excisional wounds with recombinant IL-1β partially restored granulation tissue formation in wounds of NLRP-3 null mice, confirming the importance of NLRP-3-dependent IL-1β production during early wound healing. Despite the improvement in healing, angiogenesis and levels of the pro-angiogenic growth factor VEGF were further reduced in IL-1β treated wounds, suggesting that IL-1β has a negative effect on angiogenesis and that NLRP-3 promotes angiogenesis in an IL-1β-independent manner. These findings indicate that the NLRP-3 inflammasome contributes to the early inflammatory phase following skin wounding and is important for efficient healing.
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