Obliterative bronchiolitis (OB) remains the major complication limiting long-term survival of patients after lung transplantation. We aimed to explore the effects of the selective NACHT, LRR, and PYD domains-containing protein 3 (Nlrp3) inflammasome inhibitor MCC950 on the pathogenesis of OB.
Mouse orthotopic tracheal transplants were performed to mimic OB. MCC950 (50 mg/kg) or saline was intraperitoneally injected daily. The luminal occlusion rate and collagen deposition were evaluated by hematoxylin and eosin and Masson’s trichrome staining, respectively. Infiltration of CD4+, CD8+ T cells, and neutrophils was detected with immunohistochemical staining. The frequencies of T helper 1 cell (Th1), T helper 17 cell (Th17), and regulatory T cells (Treg) were measured by flow cytometry. Cytokine levels were measured by ELISA kits.
MCC950 treatment significantly inhibited Nlrp3 inflammasome activation after allogeneic tracheal transplant and markedly decreased the luminal occlusion rate and collagen deposition in the allograft. The numbers of infiltrating CD4+, CD8+ T cells, and neutrophils in the allograft were also significantly reduced by MCC950 treatment. MCC950 dramatically decreased the frequencies of Th1/Th17 cells and the levels of interferon gamma/interleukin (IL)-17A and increased the Treg cell frequencies and IL-10 level; however, these effects were abolished by the addition of IL-1β and IL-18 both in vitro and in vivo. OB was also rescued by the addition of IL-1β and/or IL-18.
Blocking Nlrp3 inflammasome activation with MCC950 ameliorates OB lesions. The mechanistic analysis showed that MCC950 regulated the balance of Th1/Th17 and Treg cells and that this process is partially mediated by inhibition of IL-1β and IL-18. Therefore, targeting the Nlrp3 inflammasome is a promising strategy for controlling OB after lung transplantation.