Thioredoxin-interacting protein is required for endothelial NLRP3 inflammasome activation and cell death in a rat model of high-fat diet

Islam N. Mohamed, Sherif S. Hafez, Arwa Fairaq, Adviye Ergul, John D. Imig, Azza B. El-Remessy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

117 Scopus citations


Aims/hypothesis: Obesity and hypertension, known pro-inflammatory states, are identified determinants for increased retinal microvascular abnormalities. However, the molecular link between inflammation and microvascular degeneration remains elusive. Thioredoxin-interacting protein (TXNIP) is recognised as an activator of the NOD-like receptor pyrin domain containing-3 (NLRP3) inflammasome. This study aims to examine TXNIP expression and elucidate its role in endothelial inflammasome activation and retinal lesions. Methods: Spontaneously hypertensive (SHR) and control Wistar (W) rats were compared with groups fed a high-fat diet (HFD) (W+F and SHR+F) for 8-10 weeks. Results: Compared with W controls, HFD alone or in combination with hypertension significantly induced formation of acellular capillaries, a hallmark of retinal ischaemic lesions. These effects were accompanied by significant increases in lipid peroxidation, nitrotyrosine and expression of TXNIP, nuclear factor κB, TNF-α and IL-1β. HFD significantly increased interaction of TXNIP-NLRP3 and expression of cleaved caspase-1 and cleaved IL-1β. Immunolocalisation studies identified TXNIP expression within astrocytes and Müller cells surrounding retinal endothelial cells. To model HFD in vitro, human retinal endothelial (HRE) cells were stimulated with 400 μmol/l palmitate coupled to BSA (Pal-BSA). Pal-BSA triggered expression of TXNIP and its interaction with NLRP3, resulting in activation of caspase-1 and IL-1β in HRE cells. Silencing Txnip expression in HRE cells abolished Pal-BSA-mediated cleaved IL-1β release into medium and cell death, evident by decreases in cleaved caspase-3 expression and the proportion of live to dead cells. Conclusions/interpretation: These findings provide the first evidence for enhanced TXNIP expression in hypertension and HFD-induced retinal oxidative/inflammatory response and suggest that TXNIP is required for HFD-mediated activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome and the release of IL-1β in endothelial cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)413-423
Number of pages11
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2014


  • Caspase-1
  • High-fat diet
  • Hypertension
  • IL-1β
  • Inflammasome
  • Inflammation
  • NLRP3
  • Obesity
  • Oxidative stress
  • Retinal acellular capillaries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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