Pyroptotic neuronal cell death mediated by the AIM2 inflammasome

Stephanie E. Adamczak, Juan Pablo De Rivero Vaccari, Gordon Dale, Frank J. Brand, Doris Nonner, Mross Bullock, Gerhard P. Dahl, W. Dalton Dietrich, Robert W. Keane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

157 Scopus citations


The central nervous system (CNS) is an active participant in the innate immune response to infection and injury. In these studies, we show embryonic cortical neurons express a functional, deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA)-responsive, absent in melanoma 2 (AIM2) inflammasome that activates caspase-1. Neurons undergo pyroptosis, a proinflammatory cell death mechanism characterized by the following: (a) oligomerization of apoptosis-associated speck-like protein containing a caspase recruitment domain (ASC); (b) caspase-1 dependency; (c) formation of discrete pores in the plasma membrane; and (d) release of the inflammatory cytokine interleukin-1β (IL-1β). Probenecid and Brilliant Blue FCF, inhibitors of the pannexin1 channel, prevent AIM2 inflammasome-mediated cell death, identifying pannexin1 as a cell death effector during pyroptosis and probenecid as a novel pyroptosis inhibitor. Furthermore, we show activation of the AIM2 inflammasome in neurons by cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients and oligomerization of ASC. These findings suggest neuronal pyroptosis is an important cell death mechanism during CNS infection and injury that may be attenuated by probenecid.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)621-629
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2014


  • Brain trauma
  • Cell death
  • Cerebrospinal fluid
  • Inflammasomes
  • Innate immunity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology


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