Human caspase-4 does not have a corresponding mouse ortholog. Caspase-4 falls within the class of "inflammatory caspases," being homologous with human caspases 1 and 5 and mouse caspases 1, 11, and 12. To address the function of caspase-4, we generated caspase-4-deficient human THP1 monocytic cell lines which exhibited substantially reduced LPS-induced secretion of several chemokines and cytokines, including IL-8 (CXCL8), CCL4 (macrophage-inflammatory protein-1beta), CCL20 (macrophage-inflammatory protein-3alpha), and IL-1beta. The LPS-induced expression of the mRNAs encoding these cytokines was correspondingly reduced in the caspase-4-deficient clones. Because a specific NF-kappaB inhibitor blocked LPS-induced IL-8 and CCL4 mRNA expression as well as IL-8 and CCL4 secretion in THP1 cells, we investigated the role of caspase-4 in NF-kappaB signaling. LPS-induced NF-kappaB nuclear translocation and activation were inhibited in all caspase-4-deficient clones. LPS stimulation led to the interaction of endogenous caspase-4 and TNFR-associated factor 6 (TRAF6) via a TRAF6-binding motif (PPESGE), which we identified in caspase-4. Mutation of this site in caspase-4 resulted in the loss of the TRAF6-caspase-4 interaction. Similar TRAF6-binding motifs are known to be functionally important for TRAF6 interactions with other molecules including caspase-8, and for mediating NF-kappaB activation in various immune and nonimmune cell types. Our data suggest that the TRAF6-caspase-4 interaction, triggered by LPS, leads to NF-kappaB-dependent transcriptional up-regulation and secretion of important cytokines and chemokines in innate immune signaling in human monocytic cells.
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