The NLRP1 inflammasome in keratinocytes: A novel target for the treatment of inflammatory skin diseases

Grantee: Hans-Dietmar Beer, Principal Investigator, University Hospital Zürich

Amount: DKK 2,072,266

Grant category: Research Grants in open competition

Year: 2023

Geography: Switzerland

This project by Hans-Dietmar Beer aims to elucidate the molecular mechanisms associated with NLRP1 inflammasome activation in keratinocytes in inflammatory skin conditions.

Inflammasomes are protein complexes, which are mainly expressed by immune cells. Upon detection of stress factors, they regulate activation of the proinflammatory cytokine proIL-1β and its release to the extracellular environment, thereby inducing inflammation. Inflammasomes are required for initiation of normal immune responses, however, their chronic activation also underlies the pathogenesis of numerous inflammatory diseases.

The epidermis, the outermost layer of our skin, represents the first line of defense of the human body and consists of densely packed layers of keratinocytes. These cells express high levels of all proteins of the NLRP1 inflammasome. To address the roles of this inflammasome in human skin, Hans-Dietmar Beer and his team previously activated NLRP1 in keratinocytes cultivated together with dermal fibroblasts (connective tissue cells) in a three-dimensional (3D) organotypic skin model and found that NLRP1 activation induced an altered tissue phenotype and activation of pathways associated with inflammatory skin diseases. Most importantly, the team also detected inflammasome activation in keratinocytes in biopsies of patients suffering from these conditions.

The preliminary results suggest that inhibition of NLRP1 activation in keratinocytes might represent a novel therapeutic strategy for patients with certain inflammatory skin diseases and the current proposal seeks to investigate this hypothesis in more detail.