Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences

, Volume 68, Issue 5, pp 765–783 | Cite as

Inflammasomes: current understanding and open questions

  • Franz Bauernfeind
  • Andrea Ablasser
  • Eva Bartok
  • Sarah Kim
  • Jonathan Schmid-Burgk
  • Taner Cavlar
  • Veit HornungEmail author


The innate immune system relies on its capability to detect invading microbes, tissue damage, or stress via evolutionarily conserved receptors. The nucleotide-binding domain leucine-rich repeat (NLR)-containing family of pattern recognition receptors includes several proteins that drive inflammation in response to a wide variety of molecular patterns. In particular, the NLRs that participate in the formation of a molecular scaffold termed the “inflammasome” have been intensively studied in past years. Inflammasome activation by multiple types of tissue damage or by pathogen-associated signatures results in the autocatalytic cleavage of caspase-1 and ultimately leads to the processing and thus secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines, most importantly interleukin (IL)-1β and IL-18. Here, we review the current knowledge of mechanisms leading to the activation of inflammasomes. In particular, we focus on the controversial molecular mechanisms that regulate NLRP3 signaling and highlight recent advancements in DNA sensing by the inflammasome receptor AIM2.


NLR NLRP3 AIM2 Caspase-1 IL-1β AIM2 



This work was supported by grants from the German Research Foundation (SFB704 and SFB670) and the European Research Council (ERC‐2009‐StG 243046) to Veit Hornung.


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Copyright information

© Springer Basel AG 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Franz Bauernfeind
    • 1
  • Andrea Ablasser
    • 1
  • Eva Bartok
    • 1
  • Sarah Kim
    • 1
  • Jonathan Schmid-Burgk
    • 1
  • Taner Cavlar
    • 1
  • Veit Hornung
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Unit for Clinical Biochemistry, Institute for Clinical Chemistry and Clinical PharmacologyUniversity Hospital, University of BonnBonnGermany

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