Pyrin is a cytosolic pattern-recognition receptor that normally functions as a guard to trigger capase-1 inflammasome assembly in response to bacterial toxins and effectors that inactivate RhoA. The MEFV gene encoding human pyrin is preferentially expressed in phagocytes. Key domains in pyrin include a pyrin domain (PYD), a linker region, and a B30.2 domain. Binding of ASC to pyrin by a PYD-PYD interaction triggers inflammasome assembly. Pyrin is held in an inactive conformation by negative regulation mechanisms to avoid premature inflammasome assembly. One mechanism of negative regulation involves phosphorylation of the linker by PRK kinase which in turn is positively regulated by active RhoA. The B30.2 domain also negatively regulates pyrin. Gain of function mutations in MEFV responsible for the autoinflammatory disease Familial Mediterranean Fever (FMF) map to exon 10 encoding the B30.2 domain. Insights into pyrin regulation have come from studies of several Yersinia effectors, which are injected into phagocytes and interact with the RhoA-PRK-pyrin axis during infection. Two effectors, YopE and YopT, inactivate RhoA to disrupt phagocytic signaling. To counteract an effector-triggered immune response, a third effector, YopM, binds to and inhibits pyrin by hijacking PRK and RSK and directing linker phosphorylation. Inhibition of pyrin by YopM is required for virulence of Yersinia pestis, the agent of plague. Recent results from infection studies with human phagocytes and mice producing pyrin B30.2 FMF variants show that gain of function MEFV mutations bypass inhibition by YopM. Population genetic data suggest that MEFV mutations were selected for in individuals of Mediterranean decent during historic plague pandemics. This review discusses current concepts of pyrin regulation and its interaction with Yersinia effectors.
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