Fatty acid synthesis promotes inflammasome activation through NLRP3 palmitoylation

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Inflammasomes are multi-protein complexes assembled by NOD-like receptor (NLR) family of proteins, which play critical roles in infectious, inflammatory and metabolic diseases. The assembly of the NLRP3 inflammasome is triggered upon recognition of an apt stimulus by the sensor protein, resulting in binding to pro-caspase-1 via the adaptor protein ASC. Inflammasome activation results in the maturation of the precursor forms of cytokines IL-1 β and IL-18, along with caspase-1-dependent pyroptosis, a pro-inflammatory form of cell death. Emerging evidence suggests the involvement of lipid metabolism in inflammasome activation; however, the precise mechanisms by which lipids regulate the NLRP3 inflammasome remain ambiguous. A multi-enzyme protein, fatty acid synthase (FASN) is a central regulator of lipid metabolism partaking an essential role in fatty acid biosynthesis pathway by catalysing the production of palmitic acid. Palmitic acid acts as a precursor to long-chain fatty acids and additionally regulates cellular functions by palmitoylation, a process in which palmitate is reversibly added to cysteine residues of target proteins, modifying protein localization and function. Here, we undertook a pharmacological approach to investigate the roles of fatty acid biosynthetic pathway in NLRP3 inflammasome activation. Our results demonstrated that inhibition of FASN in primary mouse and human macrophages abrogates the activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome, resulting in blunted caspase-1 activation. Furthermore, this phenomenon relied on protein palmitoylation as in vitro and in vivo abrogation of palmitoylation similarly reduced NLRP3 activation, which could be restored by exogenously supplementing palmitate in cultured cells. Consequently, an acyl biotin exchange assay corroborated NLRP3 palmitoylation. Notably, activation of the dsDNA sensing AIM2 inflammasome remained unaltered when either FASN or palmitoylation was blocked. These results therefore highlight the pivotal role of FASN and palmitoylation, shedding new mechanistic insights into the activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome.

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  1. I may be missing this, but I don't see a description of how this assay is performed in the figure legend or a materials and methods section in the primary or supplemental text. Could it be that this change in mobility is due to another modification and, if so, could you confirm with mass spectrometry?

  2. This is a really interesting study linking NLRP3 palmitoylation to inflammation. Here, could you use a more sensitive readout for cell cytotoxicity to confirm cell death is not obscuring your results?