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Front Immunol. 2013 May 24;4:123. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2013.00123. eCollection 2013.

Different Members of the IL-1 Family Come Out in Different Ways: DAMPs vs. Cytokines?

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  • 1Cell Biology Unit, IRCSS Azienda Ospedale Università San Martino-IST , Genoa , Italy.


Intercellular communications control fundamental biological processes required for the survival of multicellular organisms. Secretory proteins are among the most important messengers in this network of information. Proteins destined to the extracellular environment contain a signal sequence with the necessary information to target them to the Endoplasmic Reticulum, and are released by a "classical" pathway of secretion. However, in the early 1990s it became evident that non-classical mechanisms must exist for the secretion of some proteins, which in spite of their extracellular localization and function, lack a signal peptide. Indeed, the group of leaderless secretory proteins rapidly grew and is still growing. Many of them are implicated in the regulation of the inflammatory response. Interestingly, most members of the IL-1 family (IL-1F), including the master pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-1β, are leaderless proteins and find their way out of the cells in different manners. In this article, we will review current hypotheses on the mechanisms of externalization of IL-1F members and discuss their relevance with respect to the different functions (as cytokines or as DAMPs) played by the different IL-1 proteins.


IL-18; IL-1F receptors; IL-1α; IL-1β; IL-33; TLR; damage associated molecular pattern; secretion

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