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Murine Borrelia arthritis is highly dependent on ASC and caspase-1, but independent of NLRP3

Marije Oosting12, Kathrin Buffen12, Subbarao RK Malireddi3, Patrick Sturm4, Ineke Verschueren12, Marije I Koenders5, Frank L van de Veerdonk12, Jos WM van der Meer12, Mihai G Netea12, Thirumala-Devi Kanneganti3 and Leo AB Joosten12*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medicine, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Geert Grooteplein zuid 8, Nijmegen, 6525GA,The Netherlands

2 Nijmegen Institute of Infection, Inflammation and Immunity (N4i), Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Geert Grooteplein zuid 8, Nijmegen, 6525GA,The Netherlands

3 Department of Immunology, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, TN 38105, USA

4 Department of Microbiology, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Geert Grooteplein zuid 10, Nijmegen, 6525GA, The Netherlands

5 Department of Rheumatology, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, Geert Grooteplein zuid 10, 6525GA, The Netherlands

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2012, 14:R247  doi:10.1186/ar4090

Published: 13 November 2012



The protein platform called the NOD-like-receptor -family member (NLRP)-3 inflammasome needs to be activated to process intracellular caspase-1. Active caspase-1 is able to cleave pro-Interleukin (IL)-1β, resulting in bioactive IL-1β. IL-1β is a potent proinflammatory cytokine, and thought to play a key role in the pathogenesis of Lyme arthritis, a common manifestation of Borrelia burgdorferi infection. The precise pathways through which B. burgdorferi recognition leads to inflammasome activation and processing of IL-1β in Lyme arthritis has not been elucidated. In the present study, we investigated the contribution of several pattern recognition receptors and inflammasome components in a novel murine model of Lyme arthritis.


Lyme arthritis was elicited by live B. burgdorferi, injected intra-articularly in knee joints of mice. To identify the relevant pathway components, the model was applied to wild-type, NLRP3-/-, ASC-/-, caspase-1-/-, NOD1-/-, NOD2-/-, and RICK-/- mice. As a control, TLR2-/-, Myd88-/- and IL-1R-/- mice were used. Peritoneal macrophages and bone marrow-derived macrophages were used for in vitro cytokine production and inflammasome activation studies. Joint inflammation was analyzed in synovial specimens and whole knee joints. Mann-Whitney U tests were used to detect statistical differences.


We demonstrate that ASC/caspase-1-driven IL-1β is crucial for induction of B. burgdorferi-induced murine Lyme arthritis. In addition, we show that B. burgdorferi-induced murine Lyme arthritis is less dependent on NOD1/NOD2/RICK pathways while the TLR2-MyD88 pathway is crucial.


Murine Lyme arthritis is strongly dependent on IL-1 production, and B. burgdorferi induces inflammasome-mediated caspase-1 activation. Next to that, murine Lyme arthritis is ASC- and caspase-1-dependent, but NLRP3, NOD1, NOD2, and RICK independent. Also, caspase-1 activation by B. burgdorferi is dependent on TLR2 and MyD88. Based on present results indicating that IL-1 is one of the major mediators in Lyme arthritis, there is a rationale to propose that neutralizing IL-1 activity may also have beneficial effects in chronic Lyme arthritis.