Apoptosis-Associated Speck-Like Protein Containing a Caspase Recruitment Domain Is a Regulator of Procaspase-1 Activation

Christian Stehlik, Sug Hyung Lee, Andrea Dorfleutner, Angela Stassinopoulos, Junji Sagara, John C. Reed*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

186 Scopus citations


Apoptosis-associated speck-like protein containing a caspase recruitment domain (ASC)/target of methylation-induced silencing/ PYCARD represents one of only two proteins encoded in the human genome that contains a caspase recruitment domain (CARD) together with a pyrin, AIM, ASC, and death domain-like (PAAD)/PYRIN/DAPIN domain. CARDs regulate caspase family proteases. We show here that ASC binds by its CARD to procaspase-1 and to adapter proteins involved in caspase-1 activation, thereby regulating cytokine pro-IL-1β activation by this protease in THP-1 monocytes. ASC enhances IL-1β secretion into the cell culture supernatants, at low concentrations, while suppressing at high concentrations. When expressed in HEK293 cells, ASC interferes with Cardiak/Rip2/Rick-mediated oligomerization of procaspase-1 and suppresses activation this protease, as measured by protease activity assays. Moreover, ASC also recruits procaspase-1 into ASC-formed cytosolic specks, separating it from Cardiak. We also show that expression of the PAAD/PYRIN family proteins pyrin or cryopyrin/PYPAF1/NALP3 individually inhibits IL-1β secretion but that coexpression of ASC with these proteins results in enhanced IL-1β secretion. However, expression of ASC uniformly interferes with caspase-1 activation and IL-1β secretion induced by proinflammatory stimuli such as LPS and TNF, suggesting pathway competition. Moreover, LPS and TNF induce increases in ASC mRNA and protein expression in cells of myeloid/monocytic origin, revealing another level of cross-talk of cytokine-signaling pathways with the ASC-controlled pathway. Thus, our results suggest a complex interplay of the bipartite adapter protein ASC with PAAD/ PYRIN family proteins, LPS (Toll family receptors), and TNF in the regulation of procaspase-1 activation, cytokine production, and control of inflammatory responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6154-6163
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Dec 1 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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