Microbes or danger signals trigger inflammasome sensors, which induce polymerization of the adaptor ASC and the assembly of ASC specks. ASC specks recruit and activate caspase-1, which induces maturation of the cytokine interleukin 1β (IL-1β) and pyroptotic cell death. Here we found that after pyroptosis, ASC specks accumulated in the extracellular space, where they promoted further maturation of IL-1β. In addition, phagocytosis of ASC specks by macrophages induced lysosomal damage and nucleation of soluble ASC, as well as activation of IL-1β in recipient cells. ASC specks appeared in bodily fluids from inflamed tissues, and autoantibodies to ASC specks developed in patients and mice with autoimmune pathologies. Together these findings reveal extracellular functions of ASC specks and a previously unknown form of cell-to-cell communication.
- innate immunity