NLRP3 gene knockout blocks NF-κB and MAPK signaling pathway in CUMS-induced depression mouse model

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Abundant researches indicate that neuroinflammation has important roles in the pathophysiology of depression. Our previous study found that the NLRP3 inflammasome mediated stress-induced depression-like behavior in mice via regulating neuroinflammation. However, it still remains unclear that how the NLRP3 inflammasome influences related inflammatory signaling pathway to contribute to neuroinflammation in depression.


We used wild-type mice and NLRP3 gene knockout mice to explore the role of NLRP3 inflammasome and related inflammatory signaling pathways in chronic unpredictable mild stress (CUMS) induced depression mouse model.


Both wild-type and NLRP3 knockout stress group mice gained less weight than control group mice after 4 weeks CUMS exposure. The wild-type mice subjected to 4 weeks CUMS displayed depression-like behaviors, including decreased sucrose preference and increased immobility time in the tail suspension test. The NLRP3 knockout stress group mice didn’t demonstrate depression-like behaviors. The levels of interleukin-1β protein in serum and hippocampi of CUMS exposed wild-type mice were significantly higher, while the NLRP3 knockout stress group mice didn’t show an elevation of interleukin-1β levels. Similarly to early researches, we found that CUMS led to promoted NLRP3 expression in hippocampi. In addition, the hippocampi in CUMS exposed wild-type mice had higher p-JNK and p-p38 protein expression, which indicated activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK) pathway. The knockout of NLRP3 gene inhibited CUMS-induced activation of the MAPK pathway. The nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells (NF-κB) protein complex was activated in the hippocampi of wild-type mice after CUMS exposure, while knockout of NLRP3 gene hindered its activation.


These data further proved that the NLRP3 inflammasome mediated CUMS-induced depression-like behavior. The NLRP3 inflammasome regulated CUMS-induced MAPK pathway and NF-κB protein complex activation in depression mouse model. Further researches targeting the NLRP3 inflammasome-signaling pathway might be under a promising future in the prevention and treatment of depression.

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