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Nat Rev Rheumatol. 2010 Apr;6(4):232-41. doi: 10.1038/nrrheum.2010.4. Epub 2010 Feb 23.

IL-1 pathways in inflammation and human diseases.

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  • 1Division of Rheumatology, University Hospitals of Geneva & Department of Pathology-Immunology, University of Geneva School of Medicine, 26 Avenue Beau-Séjour, 1211 Geneva 14, Switzerland. cem.gabay@hcuge.ch


Interleukin (IL)-1 was first cloned in the 1980s, and rapidly emerged as a key player in the regulation of inflammatory processes. The term IL-1 refers to two cytokines, IL-1alpha and IL-1beta, which are encoded by two separate genes. The effects of IL-1 are tightly controlled by several naturally occurring inhibitors, such as IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra), IL-1 receptor type II (IL-1RII), and other soluble receptors. Numerous IL-1 inhibitors have been developed and tested primarily in rheumatoid arthritis, with only modest effects. By contrast, the use of IL-1 antagonists has been uniformly associated with beneficial effects in patients with hereditary autoinflammatory conditions associated with excessive IL-1 signaling, such as cryopyrinopathies and IL-1Ra deficiency. Successful treatment with IL-1 blockers has also been reported in other hereditary autoinflammatory diseases, as well as in nonhereditary inflammatory diseases, such as Schnizler syndrome, systemic-onset juvenile idiopathic arthritis and adult Still disease. The role of microcrystals in the regulation of IL-1beta processing and release has provided the rationale for the use of IL-1 inhibitors in crystal-induced arthritis. Finally, preliminary results indicating that IL-1 targeting is efficacious in type 2 diabetes and smoldering myeloma have further broadened the spectrum of IL-1-driven diseases.

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