Innate immune cells, epithelial cells, and many other cell types are capable of detecting infection or tissue injury, thus mounting regulated immune response. Inflammasomes are highly sophisticated and effective orchestrators of innate immunity. These oligomerized multiprotein complexes are at the center of various innate immune pathways, including modulation of the cytoskeleton, production and maturation of cytokines, and control of bacterial growth and cell death. Inflammasome assembly often results in caspase-1 activation, which is an inflammatory caspase that is involved in pyroptotic cell death and release of inflammatory cytokines in response to pathogen patterns and endogenous danger stimuli. However, the nature of stimuli and inflammasome components are diverse. Caspase-1 activation mediated release of mature IL-1β and IL-18 in response to canonical stimuli initiated by NOD-like receptor (NLR), and apoptosis-associated speck-like protein containing a caspase recruitment domain (ASC). On the other hand, caspase-11 delineates a non-canonical inflammasome that promotes pyroptotic cell death and non-pyroptotic functions in response to non-canonical stimuli. Caspase-11 in mice and its homologues in humans (caspase-4/5) belong to caspase-1 family of cysteine proteases, and play a role in inflammation. Knockout mice provided new genetic tools to study inflammatory caspases and revealed the role of caspase-11 in mediating septic shock in response to lethal doses of lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Recognition of LPS mediates caspase-11 activation, which promotes a myriad of downstream effects that include pyroptotic and non-pyroptotic effector functions. Therefore, the physiological functions of caspase-11 are much broader than its previously established roles in apoptosis and cytokine maturation. Inflammation induced by exogenous or endogenous agents can be detrimental and, if excessive, can result in organ and tissue damage. Consequently, the existence of sophisticated mechanisms that tightly regulate the specificity and sensitivity of inflammasome pathways provides a fine-tuning balance between adequate immune response and minimal tissue damage. In this review, we summarize effector functions of caspase-11.
© 2020 The Authors. Immunological Reviews published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.