Necroptosis, or programmed necrosis, is an inflammatory form of cell death with important functions in host defense against pathogens and tissue homeostasis. The four cytosolic receptor-interacting protein kinase homotypic interaction motif (RHIM)-containing adaptor proteins RIPK1, RIPK3, TRIF (also known as TICAM1) and ZBP1 mediate necroptosis induction in response to infection and cytokine or innate immune receptor activation. Activation of the RHIM adaptors leads to phosphorylation, oligomerization and membrane targeting of the necroptosis effector protein mixed lineage kinase domain-like (MLKL). Active MLKL induces lesions on the plasma membrane, leading to the release of pro-inflammatory damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs). Thus, activities of the RHIM adaptors and MLKL are tightly regulated by posttranslational modifications to prevent inadvertent release of immunogenic contents. In this Cell Science at a Glance article and the accompanying poster, we provide an overview of the regulatory mechanisms of necroptosis and its biological functions in tissue homeostasis, pathogen infection and other inflammatory diseases.

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