Interleukin-1β (IL-1β) is a major cytokine that initiates and enhances inflammatory responses. Excessive IL-1β production is a characteristic of most chronic inflammatory diseases, including atherosclerosis, type 2 diabetes, and obesity, which affect a large proportion of the global population. The production of bioactive IL-1β is mediated by a caspase-1-activating complex known as an ‘inflammasome’. The NLRP3 inflammasome has been associated with several human inflammatory and autoimmune diseases and represents a potential therapeutic target for disrupting IL-1β production. We used molecular modeling guided by molecular dynamics simulations to design α-helical stapled peptides targeting the pyrin domain of the adaptor protein ASC to interrupt the development of its filament, which is crucial for NLRP3 inflammasome formation. The peptides were effectively internalized by human monocytic cells and efficiently suppressed the release of the inflammasome-regulated cytokines IL-1β and IL-18, following exogenous activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome. The peptides reduced ASC speck formation and caspase-1 processing thereby suppressing pro-IL-1β processing and release of active IL-1β. This is the first demonstration of the successful use of stapled peptides designed to target the adaptor protein ASC, and can be extended to other inflammatory pathways to disrupt excessive IL-1β production.
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