Signals of danger and damage in the cytosol of cells are sensed by NOD-like receptors (NLRs), which are components of multiprotein complexes called inflammasomes. Inflammasomes activate caspase-1, resulting in IL-1-beta and IL-18 secretion and an inflammatory response. To date, the only known activator of rodent Nlrp1 is anthrax lethal toxin (LT), a protease secreted by the bacterial pathogen Bacillus anthracis. Although susceptibility of mouse macrophages to LT has been genetically linked to Nlrp1b, mice harbor two additional Nlrp1 paralogs in their genomes ( Nlrp1a and Nlrp1c). However, little is known about their expression profile and sequence in different mouse strains. Furthermore, simultaneous expression of these paralogs may lead to competitional binding of Nlrp1b interaction partners needed for inflammasome activation, thus influencing macrophages susceptibility to LT. To more completely understand the role(s) of Nlrp1 paralogs in mice, we surveyed for their expression in a large set of LT-resistant and sensitive mouse macrophages. In addition, we provide sequence comparisons for Nlrp1a and report on previously unrecognized splice variants of Nlrp1b.
Our results show that macrophages from some inbred mouse strains simultaneously express different splice variants of Nlrp1b. In contrast to the highly polymorphic Nlrp1b splice variants, sequencing of expressed Nlrp1a showed the protein to be highly conserved across all mouse strains. We found that Nlrp1a was expressed only in toxin-resistant macrophages, with the sole exception of expression in LT-sensitive CAST/EiJ macrophages.