Phulphagar, K., Kuhn, L. I., Ebner, S., Frauenstein, A., Swietlik, J. J., Rieckmann, J., Meissner, F. (2021). Cell Rep 34, 108826.
A major pathway for proinflammatory protein release by macrophages is inflammasome-mediated pyroptotic cell death. As conventional secretion, unconventional secretion, and cell death are executed simultaneously, however, the cellular mechanisms regulating this complex paracrine program remain incompletely understood. Here, we devise a quantitative proteomics strategy to define the cellular exit route for each protein by pharmacological and genetic dissection of cellular checkpoints regulating protein release. We report the release of hundreds of proteins during pyroptosis, predominantly due to cell lysis. They comprise constitutively expressed and transcriptionally induced proteins derived from the cytoplasm and specific intracellular organelles. Many low-molecular-weight proteins including the cytokine interleukin-1β, alarmins, and lysosomal-cargo proteins exit cells in the absence of cell lysis. Cytokines and alarmins are released in an endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-Golgi-dependent manner as free proteins rather than by extracellular vesicles. Our work provides an experimental framework for the dissection of cellular exit pathways and a resource for pyroptotic protein release.