Familial Mediterranean fever (FMF) is an inherited disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of fever and inflammation. Most patients with FMF carry missense mutations in the C-terminal half of the pyrin protein. To study the physiologic role of pyrin, we generated mice expressing a truncated pyrin molecule that, similar to FMF patients, retains the full PYRIN domain. Bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) induces accentuated body temperatures and increased lethality in homozygous mutant mice. When stimulated, macrophages from these mice produce increased amounts of activated caspase-1 and, consequently, elevated levels of mature IL-1beta. Full-length pyrin competes in vitro with caspase-1 for binding to ASC, a known caspase-1 activator. Apoptosis is impaired in macrophages from pyrin-truncation mice through an IL-1-independent pathway. These data support a critical role for pyrin in the innate immune response, possibly by acting on ASC, and suggest a biologic basis for the selection of hypomorphic pyrin variants in man.
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