Orchestrating Inflammasomes

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Science  14 Sep 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6100, pp. 1299-1300
DOI: 10.1126/science.1229010

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The initial sensing of invading pathogens by the human immune system is largely accomplished by host pattern-recognition receptors in phagocytes (such as macrophages) that detect conserved microbial components or endogenous host molecules generated after cellular injury (1). This launches a signaling pathway called the inflammasome, causing phagocytes to release cytokines that harness immune responses to fight infection. There are several different types of inflammasomes and the mechanistic details of their assembly are still being elucidated. Some are triggered by the activation of the Nod-like receptor (NLR) family of intracellular receptors. Qu et al. (2) have recently identified the phosphorylation of NLRC4 as a critical step in its assembly into an activated inflammasome.