Mechanism of filament formation in UPA-promoted CARD8 and NLRP1 inflammasomes

L. Robert Hollingsworth, Liron David, Yang Li, Andrew R. Griswold, Jianbin Ruan, Humayun Sharif, Pietro Fontana, Elizabeth L. Orth-He, Tian Min Fu, Daniel A. Bachovchin, Hao Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


NLRP1 and CARD8 are related cytosolic sensors that upon activation form supramolecular signalling complexes known as canonical inflammasomes, resulting in caspase−1 activation, cytokine maturation and/or pyroptotic cell death. NLRP1 and CARD8 use their C-terminal (CT) fragments containing a caspase recruitment domain (CARD) and the UPA (conserved in UNC5, PIDD, and ankyrins) subdomain for self-oligomerization, which in turn form the platform to recruit the inflammasome adaptor ASC (apoptosis-associated speck-like protein containing a CARD) or caspase-1, respectively. Here, we report cryo-EM structures of NLRP1-CT and CARD8-CT assemblies, in which the respective CARDs form central helical filaments that are promoted by oligomerized, but flexibly linked, UPAs surrounding the filaments. Through biochemical and cellular approaches, we demonstrate that the UPA itself reduces the threshold needed for NLRP1-CT and CARD8-CT filament formation and signalling. Structural analyses provide insights on the mode of ASC recruitment by NLRP1-CT and the contrasting direct recruitment of caspase-1 by CARD8-CT. We also discover that subunits in the central NLRP1CARD filament dimerize with additional exterior CARDs, which roughly doubles its thickness and is unique among all known CARD filaments. Finally, we engineer and determine the structure of an ASCCARD–caspase-1CARD octamer, which suggests that ASC uses opposing surfaces for NLRP1, versus caspase-1, recruitment. Together these structures capture the architecture and specificity of the active NLRP1 and CARD8 inflammasomes in addition to key heteromeric CARD-CARD interactions governing inflammasome signalling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number189
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • General
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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