Noncanonical Inflammasome Activation by Intracellular LPS Independent of TLR4

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Science  13 Sep 2013:
Vol. 341, Issue 6151, pp. 1246-1249
DOI: 10.1126/science.1240248

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Move Over, TLR4

The innate immune system senses bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) through Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) (see the Perspective by Kagan). However, Kayagaki et al. (p 1246, published online 25 July) and Hagar et al. (p. 1250) report that the hexa-acyl lipid A component of LPS from Gramnegative bacteria is able to access the cytoplasm and activate caspase-11 to signal immune responses independently of TLR4. Mice that lack caspase-11 are resistant to LPS-induced lethality, even in the presence of TLR4.


Gram-negative bacteria including Escherichia coli, Citrobacter rodentium, Salmonella typhimurium, and Shigella flexneri are sensed in an ill-defined manner by an intracellular inflammasome complex that activates caspase-11. We show that macrophages loaded with synthetic lipid A, E. coli lipopolysaccharide (LPS), or S. typhimurium LPS activate caspase-11 independently of the LPS receptor Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4). Consistent with lipid A triggering the noncanonical inflammasome, LPS containing a divergent lipid A structure antagonized caspase-11 activation in response to E. coli LPS or Gram-negative bacteria. Moreover, LPS-mutant E. coli failed to activate caspase-11. Tlr4–/– mice primed with TLR3 agonist polyinosinic:polycytidylic acid [poly(I:C)] to induce pro-caspase-11 expression were as susceptible as wild-type mice were to sepsis induced by E. coli LPS. These data unveil a TLR4-independent mechanism for innate immune recognition of LPS.

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