Mitochondrial DNA oxidation induces imbalanced activity of NLRP3/NLRP6 inflammasomes by activation of caspase-8 and BRCC36 in dry eye

Wei Chi, Xia Hua, Xin Chen, Fang Bian, Xiaoyong Yuan, Lili Zhang, Xiaoran Wang, Ding Chen, Ruzhi Deng, Zhijie Li, Yizhi Liu, Cintia S de Paiva, Stephen C Pflugfelder, De-Quan Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


The concept of innate immunity has been expanded to recognize environmental pathogens other than microbial components. However, whether and how the innate immunity is initiated by epithelium in response to environmental physical challenges such as low humidity and high osmolarity in an autoimmune disease, dry eye, is still largely unknown. Using two experimental dry eye models, primary human corneal epithelial cultures exposed to hyperosmolarity and mouse ocular surface facing desiccating stress, we uncovered novel innate immunity pathway by ocular surface epithelium, where oxidized mitochondrial DNA induces imbalanced activation of NLRP3/NLRP6 inflammasomes via stimulation of caspase-8 and BRCC36 in response to environmental stress. Activated NLRP3 with suppressed NLRP6 stimulates caspase-1 activation that leads to IL-1β and IL-18 maturation and secretion. NLRP3-independent caspase-8 noncanonically activates caspase-1 via reciprocal regulation of NLRP3/NLRP6-mediated inflammasomes. Reactive oxygen species-induced mitochondrial DNA oxidative damage and BRCC36 deubiquitinating activity provide a missing link and mechanism by which innate immunity responds to environmental stress via caspase-8-involved NLRP3/NLRP6 inflammasomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-76
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Autoimmunity
StatePublished - Jun 2017


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Autoimmunity
  • Caspase 8/metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • DNA Damage
  • DNA, Mitochondrial/genetics
  • Dry Eye Syndromes/immunology
  • Environmental Exposure/adverse effects
  • Epithelium, Corneal/immunology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Inflammasomes/metabolism
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins/metabolism
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins/metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Animal
  • NLR Family, Pyrin Domain-Containing 3 Protein/metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Reactive Oxygen Species/metabolism
  • Young Adult


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