Listeria monocytogenes (L. monocytogenes) is a Gram-positive intracellular foodborne pathogen that causes severe diseases, such as meningitis and sepsis. The NLR family pyrin domain-containing 3 (NLRP3) inflammasome has been reported to participate in host defense against pathogen infection. However, the exact molecular mechanisms underlying NLRP3 inflammasome activation remain to be fully elucidated. In the present study, the roles of mammalian Ste20-like kinases 1/2 (Mst1/2) and Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase (ALK) in the activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome induced by L. monocytogenes infection were investigated. The expression levels of Mst1/2, phospho (p)-ALK, p-JNK, Nek7, and NLRP3 downstream molecules including activated cas-pase-1 (p20) and mature interleukin (IL)-1β (p17), were up-regulated in L. monocytogenes-infected macrophages. The ALK inhibitor significantly decreased the expression of p-JNK, Nek7, and NLRP3 downstream molecules in macrophages infected with L. monocytogenes. Furthermore, the Mst1/2 inhibitor markedly inhibited the L. monocytogenes-induced activation of ALK, subsequently downregulating the expression of p-JNK, Nek7, and NLRP3 downstream molecules. Therefore, our study demonstrated that Mst1/2-ALK mediated the activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome by promoting the interaction between Nek7 and NLRP3 via JNK during L. monocytogenes infection, which subsequently increased the maturation and release of proinflammatory cytokine to resist pathogen infection. Moreover, Listeriolysin O played a key role in the process. In addition, we also found that the L. monocytogenes-induced apoptosis of J774A.1 cells was reduced by the Mst1/2 or ALK inhibitor. The present study reported, for the first time, that the Mst1/2-ALK-JNK-NLRP3 signaling pathway plays a vital proinflammatory role during L. monocytogenes infection.
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