NLRP3 Inflammasome Regulates Development of Systemic Inflammatory Response and Compensatory Anti-Inflammatory Response Syndromes in Mice With Acute Pancreatitis

Sendler, M., van den Brandt, C., Glaubitz, J., Wilden, A., Golchert, J., Weiss, F. U., Homuth, G., De Freitas Chama, L. L., Mishra, N., Mahajan, U. M., Bossaller, L., Volker, U., Broker, B. M., Mayerle, J., and Lerch, M. M. (2020). Gastroenterology 158, 253-269 e214. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2019.09.040


Pancreatitis starts with primarily sterile local inflammation that induces systemic inflammatory response syndrome, followed by compensatory anti-inflammatory response syndrome (CARS). We investigated the mechanisms of these processes in mice and human serum.

We induced severe acute pancreatitis by partial duct ligation with caerulein stimulation or intraperitoneal injection of l-arginine in mice with deletion of interleukin (IL)12B, NLRP3, or IL18 and in mice given MCC950, a small molecule inhibitor of the NLRP3-inflammasome. Pancreata were collected from mice and analyzed by histology, and cytokine levels were measured in serum samples. We measured activation of adaptive immune responses in mice with pancreatitis by flow cytometry analysis of T cells (CD25 and CD69) isolated from the spleen. Differentiation of T-helper (Th1) cells, Th2 cells, and T-regulatory cells was determined by nuclear staining for TBET, GATA3, and FOXP3. We performed transcriptome analysis of mouse lymph nodes and bone marrow-derived macrophages after incubation with acini. We measured levels of cytokines in serum samples from patients with mild and severe acute pancreatitis.

Activation of the adaptive immune response in mice was initiated by macrophage-derived, caspase 1-processed cytokines and required activation of NLRP3 (confirmed in serum samples from patients with pancreatitis). Spleen cells from mice with pancreatitis had increases in Th2 cells but not in Th1 cells. Bone marrow-derived macrophages secreted IL1B and IL18, but not IL12, after co-incubation with pancreatic acini. T-cell activation and severity of acute pancreatitis did not differ significantly between IL12B-deficient and control mice. In contrast, NLRP3- or IL18-deficient mice had reduced activation of T cells and no increase in Th2 cell-mediated responses compared with control mice. The systemic type 2 immune response was mediated by macrophage-derived cytokines of the IL1 family. Specifically, IL18 induced a Th2 cell-mediated response in the absence of IL12. MCC950 significantly reduced neutrophil infiltration, T-cell activation, and disease severity in mice.

In mice with severe pancreatitis, we found systemic inflammatory response syndrome and compensatory anti-inflammatory response syndrome developed in parallel. Infiltrating macrophages promote inflammation and simultaneously induce a Th2 cell-mediated response via IL18. Inhibition of NLRP3 reduces systemic inflammatory response syndrome and compensatory anti-inflammatory response syndrome and might be used to treat patients with severe pancreatitis.