Age-Dependent Susceptibility to Pulmonary Fibrosis Is Associated with NLRP3 Inflammasome Activation.
Aging has been implicated in the development of pulmonary fibrosis, which has seen a sharp increase in incidence in those older than 50 years. Recent studies demonstrate a role for the nucleotide-binding domain and leucine rich repeat containing family, pyrin domain containing 3 (NLRP3) inflammasome and its regulated cytokines in experimental lung fibrosis. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that age-related NLRP3 inflammasome activation is an important predisposing factor in the development of pulmonary fibrosis. Briefly, young and aged wild-type and NLRP3(-/-) mice were subjected to bleomycin-induced lung injury. Pulmonary fibrosis was determined by histology and hydroxyproline accumulation. Bone marrow and alveolar macrophages were isolated from these mice. NLRP3 inflammasome activation was assessed by co-immunoprecipitation experiments. IL-1β and IL-18 production was measured by ELISA. The current study demonstrated that aged wild-type mice developed more lung fibrosis and exhibited increased morbidity and mortality after bleomycin-induced lung injury, when compared with young mice. Bleomycin-exposed aged NLRP3(-/-) mice had reduced fibrosis compared with their wild-type age-matched counterparts. Bone marrow-derived and alveolar macrophages from aged mice displayed higher levels of NLRP3 inflammasome activation and caspase-1-dependent IL-1β and IL-18 production, which was associated with altered mitochondrial function and increased production of reactive oxygen species. Our study demonstrated that age-dependent increases in alveolar macrophage mitochondrial reactive oxygen species production and NLRP3 inflammasome activation contribute to the development of experimental fibrosis.