The innate immune system relies on receptors that sense common signs of infection to trigger a robust host-defense response. Receptors such as RIG-I and NLRP3 activate downstream adaptors mitochondrial antiviral signaling (MAVS) and apoptosis-associated speck-like protein (ASC), respectively, to propagate immune and inflammatory signaling. Recent studies have indicated that both MAVS and ASC form functional prion-like polymers to propagate immune signaling. Here, we summarize the biochemical, genetic, and structural studies that characterize the prion-like behavior of MAVS and ASC in their respective signaling pathways. We then discuss prion-like polymerization as an evolutionarily conserved mechanism of signal transduction in innate immunity in light of the similarity between the NLRP3-ASC, the NLRP3-ASC pathway in mammals, and the NWD2-HET-s pathway in fungi. We conclude by outlining the unique advantages to signaling through functional prions and potential future directions in the field.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)