University of Massachusetts Medical School Faculty Publications


Alcohol-induced IL-1beta in the brain is mediated by NLRP3/ASC inflammasome activation that amplifies neuroinflammation

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Medicince, Division of Gastroenterology; Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases and Immunology

Publication Date


Document Type



Interleukin-1beta; Carrier Proteins; Inflammasomes; Inflammation; Alcohol-Induced Disorders, Nervous System; Neurogenic Inflammation


Cellular and Molecular Physiology | Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience | Neuroscience and Neurobiology


Alcohol-induced neuroinflammation is mediated by proinflammatory cytokines, including IL-1beta. IL-1beta production requires caspase-1 activation by inflammasomes-multiprotein complexes that are assembled in response to danger signals. We hypothesized that alcohol-induced inflammasome activation contributes to increased IL-1beta in the brain. WT and TLR4-, NLRP3-, and ASC-deficient (KO) mice received an ethanol-containing or isocaloric control diet for 5 weeks, and some received the rIL-1ra, anakinra, or saline treatment. Inflammasome activation, proinflammatory cytokines, endotoxin, and HMGB1 were measured in the cerebellum. Expression of inflammasome components (NLRP1, NLRP3, ASC) and proinflammatory cytokines (TNF-alpha, MCP-1) was increased in brains of alcohol-fed compared with control mice. Increased caspase-1 activity and IL-1beta protein in ethanol-fed mice indicated inflammasome activation. TLR4 deficiency protected from TNF-alpha, MCP-1, and attenuated alcohol-induced IL-1beta increases. The TLR4 ligand, LPS, was not increased in the cerebellum. However, we found up-regulation of acetylated and phosphorylated HMGB1 and increased expression of the HMGB1 receptors (TLR2, TLR4, TLR9, RAGE) in alcohol-fed mice. NLRP3- or ASC-deficient mice were protected from caspase-1 activation and alcohol-induced IL-1beta increase in the brain. Furthermore, in vivo treatment with rIL-1ra prevented alcohol-induced inflammasome activation and IL-1beta, TNF-alpha, and acetylated HMGB1 increases in the cerebellum. Conversely, intracranial IL-1beta administration induced TNF-alpha and MCP-1 in the cerebellum. In conclusion, alcohol up-regulates and activates the NLRP3/ASC inflammasome, leading to caspase-1 activation and IL-1beta increase in the cerebellum. IL-1beta amplifies neuroinflammation, and disruption of IL-1/IL-1R signaling prevents alcohol-induced inflammasome activation and neuroinflammation. Increased levels of acetylated and phosphorylated HMGB1 may contribute to alcoholic neuroinflammation.

DOI of Published Version



J Leukoc Biol. 2013 July;94(1):171-182. Link to article on publisher's site

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of leukocyte biology

PubMed ID