Systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis and recurrent macrophage activation syndrome due to a CASP1 variant causing inflammasome hyperactivation

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OBJECTIVES: We investigated a patient with systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis (sJIA) and recurrent macrophage activation syndrome (MAS) to discover genetic and immunological contributing factors.

METHODS: Severe recurrent MAS motivated whole exome sequencing (WES) to identify genetic variants potentially involved in disease pathogenesis. In vitro peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) stimulations for cytokine expression and caspase-1 activity assays as well as NF-κB reporter luciferase assays were performed to functionally characterize variants.

RESULTS: WES revealed an extremely rare heterozygous missense variant, c.482G>A, p.R161H in the CASP1 gene encoding pro-caspase-1. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) stimulation of patient PBMCs induced high levels of IL-6 compared to controls, and activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome resulted in increased production of IL-1β and IL-18 as well as significantly elevated caspase-1 activity. Constitutive and inducible levels of IL-18 and IFNγ in whole blood were markedly elevated. Expression of the CASP1 variant in an NF-κB reporter luciferase assay induced increased NF-κB activation in a RIP2-dependent manner. The disease course of the patient was complicated by severe recurrent MAS. However, dual IL-1 and IL-6 blockade caused disease remission.

CONCLUSION: For the first time, we demonstrate the involvement of a CASP1 variant in sJIA and recurrent MAS. This variant is gain-of-function for both inflammasome and NF-κB activation leading to increased production of IL-6, IL-1β and IL-18. Although dual IL-1 and IL-6 blockade may be beneficial in patients, in whom single treatment is not sufficient to control MAS, caution should be practiced, since interstitial lung disease may progress despite apparent clinical and biochemical remission.

Original languageEnglish
JournalRheumatology (Oxford, England)
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020

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