A phenotypic high-content, high-throughput screen identifies inhibitors of NLRP3 inflammasome activation.
Nizami S., Millar V., Arunasalam K., Zarganes-Tzitzikas T., Brough D., Tresadern G., Brennan PE., Davis JB., Ebner D., Di Daniel E.
Inhibition of the NACHT, LRR and PYD domains-containing protein 3 (NLRP3) inflammasome has recently emerged as a promising therapeutic target for several inflammatory diseases. After priming and activation by inflammation triggers, NLRP3 forms a complex with apoptosis-associated speck-like protein containing a CARD domain (ASC) followed by formation of the active inflammasome. Identification of inhibitors of NLRP3 activation requires a well-validated primary high-throughput assay followed by the deployment of a screening cascade of assays enabling studies of structure-activity relationship, compound selectivity and efficacy in disease models. We optimized a NLRP3-dependent fluorescent tagged ASC speck formation assay in murine immortalized bone marrow-derived macrophages and utilized it to screen a compound library of 81,000 small molecules. Our high-content screening assay yielded robust assay metrics and identified a number of inhibitors of NLRP3-dependent ASC speck formation, including compounds targeting HSP90, JAK and IKK-β. Additional assays to investigate inflammasome priming or activation, NLRP3 downstream effectors such as caspase-1, IL-1β and pyroptosis form the basis of a screening cascade to identify NLRP3 inflammasome inhibitors in drug discovery programs.