Autophagy and inflammasomes
Autophagy is a ubiquitous cellular mechanism for the targeted lysosomal degradation of various cytosolic constituents, from proteins to organelles. As an essential homeostatic mechanism, autophagy is upregulated in response to numerous environmental and pharmacological stimuli, including starvation, where it facilitates the recycling of essential amino acids. In addition, autophagy plays specific roles within the immune system; it serves as a source of peptides for antigen presentation, a mechanism for the engulfment and degradation of intracellular pathogens and as a key regulator of inflammatory cytokines. In particular, autophagy has been shown to play a number of roles in regulating inflammasome activation, from the removal of inflammasome-activating endogenous signals, to the sequestration and degradation of inflammasome components. Autophagy also plays a role in determining the fate of IL-1β, which is concentrated in autophagosomes. This review discusses a growing body of literature that suggests autophagy is a critical regulator of inflammasome activation and the subsequent release of IL-1 family cytokines.