, Volume 24, Issue 9–10, pp 703–717 | Cite as

ATP induces caspase-3/gasdermin E-mediated pyroptosis in NLRP3 pathway-blocked murine macrophages

  • Chen-Ying Zeng
  • Chen-Guang Li
  • Jun-Xiang Shu
  • Li-Hui Xu
  • Dong-Yun Ouyang
  • Feng-Yi Mai
  • Qiong-Zhen Zeng
  • Cheng-Cheng Zhang
  • Rui-Man LiEmail author
  • Xian-Hui HeEmail author


ATP acts as a canonical activator to induce NLRP3 (NOD-like receptor family, pyrin domain containing 3) inflammasome activation in macrophages, leading to caspase-1/gasdermin D (GSDMD)-mediated pyroptosis. It remains unclear whether ATP can induce pyroptosis in macrophages when the NLRP3 pathway is blocked by pathogenic infection. In this study, we used cellular models to mimic such blockade of NLRP3 activation: bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMDMs) treated with NLRP3-specific inhibitor MCC950 and RAW264.7 cells deficient in ASC (apoptosis-associated speck-like protein containing a caspase recruitment domain) expression. The results showed that ATP treatment induced lytic cell death morphologically resembling canonical pyroptosis in both MCC950-treated BMDMs and RAW264.7 cells, but did not cause the activation of caspase-1 (by detecting caspase-1p10 and mature interleukin-1β) and cleavage of GSDMD. Instead, both apoptotic initiator (caspase-8 and -9) and executioner (caspase-3 and -7) caspases were evidently activated and gasdermin E (GSDME) was cleaved to generate its N-terminal fragment (GSDME-NT) which executes pyroptosis. The GSDME-NT production and lytic cell death induced by ATP were diminished by caspase-3 inhibitor. In BMDMs without MCC950 treatment, ATP induced the formation of ASC specks which were co-localized with caspase-8; with MCC950 treatment, however, ATP did not induced the formation of ASC specks. In RAW264.7 cells, knockdown of GSDME by small interfering RNA attenuated ATP-induced lytic cell death and HMGB1 release into culture supernatants. Collectively, our results indicate that ATP induces pyroptosis in macrophages through the caspase-3/GSDME axis when the canonical NLRP3 pathway is blocked, suggestive of an alternative mechanism for combating against pathogen evasion.


Pyroptosis Caspase-3 Gasdermin E ATP Macrophages 



This work was supported by the grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 81773965, 81673664 and 81873064).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

10495_2019_1551_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (822 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 821 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Immunobiology, College of Life Science and TechnologyJinan UniversityGuangzhouChina
  2. 2.Department of Cell Biology, College of Life Science and TechnologyJinan UniversityGuangzhouChina
  3. 3.Department of Gynecology and ObstetricsThe First Affiliated Hospital of Jinan UniversityGuangzhouChina

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