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The NALP3 inflammasome is involved in neurotoxic prion peptide-induced microglial activation

Fushan Shi, Lifeng Yang, Mohammed Kouadir, Yang Yang, Jihong Wang, Xiangmei Zhou, Xiaomin Yin and Deming Zhao*

Author Affiliations

State Key Laboratories for Agrobiotechnology, Key Lab of Animal Epidemiology and Zoonosis, Ministry of Agriculture, National Animal Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy Laboratory, College of Veterinary Medicine, China Agricultural University, Beijing, 100193, China

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Journal of Neuroinflammation 2012, 9:73  doi:10.1186/1742-2094-9-73

Published: 24 April 2012



Prion diseases are neurodegenerative disorders characterized by the accumulation of an abnormal disease-associated prion protein, PrPSc. In prion-infected brains, activated microglia are often present in the vicinity of PrPSc aggregates, and microglial activation is thought to play a key role in the pathogenesis of prion diseases. Although interleukin (IL)-1β release by prion-induced microglia has been widely reported, the mechanism by which primed microglia become activated and secrete IL-1β in prion diseases has not yet been elucidated. In this study, we investigated the role of the NACHT, LRR and PYD domains-containing protein (NALP)3 inflammasome in IL-1β release from lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-primed microglia after exposure to a synthetic neurotoxic prion fragment (PrP106-126).


The inflammasome components NALP3 and apoptosis-associated speck-like protein (ASC) were knocked down by gene silencing. IL-1β production was assessed using ELISA. The mRNA expression of NALP3, ASC, and pro-inflammatory factors was measured by quantitative PCR. Western blot analysis was used to detect the protein level of NALP3, ASC, caspase-1 and nuclear factor-κB.


We found that that PrP106-126-induced IL-1β release depends on NALP3 inflammasome activation, that inflammasome activation is required for the synthesis of pro-inflammatory and chemotactic factors by PrP106-126-activated microglia, that inhibition of NF-κB activation abrogated PrP106-126-induced NALP3 upregulation, and that potassium efflux and production of reactive oxygen species were implicated in PrP106-126-induced NALP3 inflammasome activation in microglia.


We conclude that the NALP3 inflammasome is involved in neurotoxic prion peptide-induced microglial activation. To our knowledge, this is the first time that strong evidence for the involvement of NALP3 inflammasome in prion-associated inflammation has been found.

Prion diseases; PrP106-126; NALP3 Inflammasome; IL-1β; Microglia