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Vitam Horm. 2006;74:371-403.

The role of IL-1 and IL-1Ra in joint inflammation and cartilage degradation.

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  • 1UMR 7079 CNRS, Physiology and Physiopathology Laboratory, University Paris 6, Paris, 75252 Cedex 5, France.


Interleukin (IL)-1 is a cytokine that plays a major role in inflammatory responses in the context of infections and immune-mediated diseases. IL-1 refers to two different cytokines, termed IL-1alpha and IL-1beta, produced from two genes. IL-1alpha and IL-1beta are produced by different cell types following stimulation by bacterial products, cytokines, and immune complexes. Monocytes/macrophages are the primary source of IL-1beta. Both cytokines do not possess leader peptide sequences and do not follow a classical secretory pathway. IL-1alpha is mainly cell associated, whereas IL-1beta can be released from activated cells after cleavage of its amino-terminal region by caspase-1. IL-1 is present in the synovial tissue and fluids of patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Several in vitro studies have shown that IL-1 stimulates the production of mediators such as prostaglandin E(2), nitric oxide, cytokines, chemokines, and adhesion molecules that are involved in articular inflammation. Furthermore, IL-1 stimulates the synthesis and activity of matrix metalloproteinases and other enzymes involved in cartilage destruction in rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. The effects of IL-1 are inhibited in vitro and in vivo by natural inhibitors such as IL-1 receptor antagonist and soluble receptors. IL-1 receptor antagonist belongs to the IL-1 family of cytokines and binds to IL-1 receptors but does not induce any intracellular response. IL-1 receptor antagonist inhibits the effect of IL-1 by blocking its interaction with cell surface receptors. The use of IL-1 inhibitors in experimental models of inflammatory arthritis and osteoarthritis has provided a strong support for the role of IL-1 in the pathogeny of these diseases. Most importantly, these findings have been confirmed in clinical trials in patients with rheumatic diseases. Additional strategies aimed to block the effect of IL-1 are tested in clinical trials.

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