Aggregatibacter Actinomycetemcomitans Cytolethal Distending Toxin Activates the NLRP3 Inflammasome in Human Macrophages, Leading to the Release of Proinflammatory Cytokines
The cytolethal distending toxin (Cdt) is produced from a number of bacteria capable of causing infection and inflammatory disease. Our previous studies with Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans Cdt demonstrate not only that the active toxin subunit functions as a phosphatidylinositol-3,4,5-triphosphate (PIP3) phosphatase but also that macrophages exposed to the toxin were stimulated to produce proinflammatory cytokines. We now demonstrate that the Cdt-induced proinflammatory response involves the activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome. Specific inhibitors and short hairpin RNA (shRNA) were employed to demonstrate requirements for NLRP3 and ASC as well as caspase-1. Furthermore, Cdt-mediated inflammasome activation is dependent upon upstream signals, including reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation and Cdt-induced increases in extracellular ATP levels. Increases in extracellular ATP levels contribute to the activation of the P2X7 purinergic receptor, leading to K+ efflux. The relationship between the abilities of the active toxin subunit CdtB to function as a lipid phosphatase, activate the NLRP3 inflammasome, and induce a proinflammatory cytokine response is discussed. These studies provide new insight into the virulence potential of Cdt in mediating the pathogenesis of disease caused by Cdt-producing organisms such as Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans. © 2015, American Society for Microbiology.