Science and Mathematics Faculty Publications

Inflammatory caspases are critical for enhanced cell death in the target tissue of Sjögren's syndrome before disease onset

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Immunology & Cell Biology





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To date, little is known about why exocrine glands are subject to immune cell infiltrations in Sjögren's syndrome (SjS). Studies with SjS-prone C57BL/6.NOD-Aec1Aec2 mice showed altered glandular homeostasis in the submandibular glands (SMX) at 8 weeks before disease onset and suggested the potential involvement of inflammatory caspases (caspase-11 and -1). To determine whether inflammatory caspases are critical for the increased epithelial cell death before SjS-like disease, we investigated molecular events involving caspase-11/caspase-1 axis. Our results revealed concurrent upregulation of caspase-11 in macrophages, STAT-1 activity, caspase-1 activity and apoptotic epithelial cells in the SMX of C57BL/6.NOD-Aec1Aec2 at 8 weeks. Caspase-1, a critical factor for interleukin (IL)-1β and IL-18 secretion, resulted in an elevated level of IL-18 in saliva. Interestingly, TUNEL-positive cells in the SMX of C57BL/6.NOD-Aec1Aec2 were not colocalized with caspase-11, indicating that caspase-11 functions in a noncell autonomous manner. Increased apoptosis of a human salivary gland (HSG) cell line occurred only in the presence of lipopolysaccharide (LPS-) and interferon (IFN)-γ-stimulated human monocytic THP-1 cells, which was reversed when caspase-1 in THP-1 cells was targeted by siRNA. Taken together, our study discovered that inflammatory caspases are essential in promoting a pro-inflammatory microenvironment and influencing increased epithelial cell death in the target tissues of SjS before disease onset.


apoptosis, cytokines, inflammatory caspases, Sjögren's syndrome