Cigarette smoke destabilizes NLRP3 protein by promoting its ubiquitination

SeungHye Han, Jacob A. Jerome, Alyssa D. Gregory, Rama K. Mallampalli*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Background: Cigarette smoke suppresses innate immunity, making smokers more susceptible to infection. The NLRP3 inflammasome is a multi-protein complex that releases interleukin (IL) -1β and IL -18. These cytokines are critical for a timely host response to pathogens. Whether cigarette smoke affects NLRP3 protein levels, and its ability to form an inflammasome, is not known. Methods and results: Using the human monocyte THP1 cell line and C57BL/6 mice, we show that cigarette smoke decreases NLRP3 levels in cells by increasing ubiquitin-mediated proteasomal processing. Half-life of NLRP3 is shortened with the exposure to cigarette smoke extract. Cigarette smoke extract reduces cellular NLRP3 protein abundance in the presence of lipopolysaccharide, a known inducer of NLRP3 protein, thereby decreasing the formation of NLRP3 inflammasomes. The release of IL-1β and IL-18 by inflammasome activation is also decreased with the exposure to cigarette smoke extract both in THP1 cells and primary human peripheral blood macrophages. Conclusions: Cigarette smoke extract decreased NLRP3 protein abundance via increased ubiquitin-mediated proteasomal processing. The release of IL-1β and IL-18 is also decreased with cigarette smoke extract. Our findings may provide mechanistic insights on immunosuppression in smokers and unique opportunities to develop a strategy to modulate immune function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2
JournalRespiratory Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 5 2017


  • Cigarette smoke
  • NLRP3
  • Ubiquitin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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