The NLRP3 inflammasome in traumatic brain injury: potential as a biomarker and therapeutic target

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There is a great clinical need to identify the underlying mechanisms, as well as related biomarkers, and treatment targets, for traumatic brain injury (TBI). Neuroinflammation is a central pathophysiological feature of TBI. NLRP3 inflammasome activity is a necessary component of the innate immune response to tissue damage, and dysregulated inflammasome activity has been implicated in a number of neurological conditions. This paper introduces the NLRP3 inflammasome and its implication in the pathogenesis of neuroinflammatory-related conditions, with a particular focus on TBI. Although its role in TBI has only recently been identified, findings suggest that priming and activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome are upregulated following TBI. Moreover, recent studies utilizing specific NLRP3 inhibitors have provided further evidence that this inflammasome is a major driver of neuroinflammation and neurobehavioral disturbances following TBI. In addition, there is emerging evidence that circulating inflammasome-associated proteins may have utility as diagnostic biomarkers of neuroinflammatory conditions, including TBI. Finally, novel and promising areas of research will be highlighted, including the potential involvement of the NLRP3 inflammasome in mild TBI, how factors such as biological sex may affect NLRP3 activity in TBI, and the use of emerging biomarker platforms. Taken together, this review highlights the exciting potential of the NLRP3 inflammasome as a target for treatments and biomarkers that may ultimately be used to improve TBI management.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroinflammation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Apr 2020


  • Caspase-1
  • Chronic traumatic encephalopathy
  • Concussion
  • Cytokine
  • IL-18
  • IL-1β
  • Microglia
  • Mild traumatic brain injury
  • Neuroinflammation
  • TBI

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