Department of Surgery

Scott Lab

Research Overview

The role of the inflammasome and caspase-1 in trauma and hemorrhage

Caspase-1 is an important enzyme in inflammatory processes with a main function of cleaving pro-forms of inflammatory cytokines IL-1beta and IL-18, which allows them to be released from macrophages and other immune cells.  A lot less is known about the role of caspase-1 in non-immune cells such as hepatocytes, the main cell-type in the liver. These cells have been shown to activate caspase-1 but produce little if any IL-1beta or IL-18. Our lab is therefore focusing on identifying the function of caspase-1 activation in non-immune cells during global ischemia-reperfusion and oxidative stress induced by hemorrhagic shock and trauma.

We are also investigating how caspase-1 is activated in non-immune cells in our models. Caspase-1 is activated/cleaved through the activation of a group of proteins that form a platform known as the inflammasome. Multiple types of inflammasome have been described all of which include NOD-like proteins such as NLRP3 and NLRP1. Our lab is working to determine which mechanism of caspase-1 activation is important in end-organs such as the liver during hemorrhagic shock and after trauma. Understanding how the mechanisms behind the immune response to hemorrhage and trauma could identify novel future treatments for these patients and prevent morbidity and mortality from organ failure.

The role of the inflammasome and caspase-1 in sepsis

Proinflammatory cytokines, such as IL-1beta, are known to be extremely important in helping to activate immune responses to fight infection and clear bacteria from the blood and organs. However, too much inflammation can be damaging to cells and tissues, and can lead to organ dysfunction and failure. We are intersted in the role of the inflammasome and caspase-1 in initiating the immune response to surgical infection, and how responses are integrated between immune cells and end organs in order to clear bacteria and resolve infection.

The main model we are using is a model of polymicrobial peritonitis induced by ligating and punturing the cecum to release fecal bacteria into the abdomen. This model of cecal ligation and puncture (CLP) mimics many types of surgical abdominal infection such as a burst appendix or diveticulum and so is relevant to human disease. Understanding how the immune response is regulated by the inflammasome and caspase-1 may provide us with clues about new treatments that may help more effectively treat surgical patients in the future.

Inflammasome activation and metabolic control in the liver and during surgery

The inflammasome and its activation have been strongly implicated in the regulation of many metabolic events, including obesity-induced diabetes and insulin resistance. As the population of the United States as a whole becomes more obese it becomes more important for us to understand how the immune system is affected in these patients and how this affects both elective and emergency surgical outcomes. Our lab is interested in investigating the role of the inflammasome and caspase-1 particularly in the liver of obese subjects, and how the inflammasome affects immune processes that can regulate wound healing, inflammation and infection after hemorrhagic shock and trauma.

Lab Members


NW607 UPMC Montefiore


Publications from the Scott Lab can be viewed through PubMed.