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PLoS One. 2012;7(5):e37689. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0037689. Epub 2012 May 23.

Inflammasome-mediated IL-1β production in humans with cystic fibrosis.

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Department of Microbiology & Immunology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.



Inflammation and infection are major determinants of disease severity and consequently, the quality of life and outcome for patients with cystic fibrosis (CF). Interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β) is a key inflammatory mediator. Secretion of biologically active IL-1β involves inflammasome-mediated processing. Little is known about the contribution of IL-1β and the inflammasomes in CF inflammatory disease. This study examines inflammasome-mediated IL-1β production in CF bronchial epithelial cell lines and human patients with CF.


Bronchial epithelial cell lines were found to produce negligible amounts of basal or stimulated IL-1β compared to hematopoeitic cells and they did not significantly upregulate caspase-1 activity upon inflammasome stimulation. In contrast, peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from both CF and healthy control subjects produced large amounts of IL-1β and strongly upregulated caspase-1 activity upon inflammasome stimulation. PBMCs from CF patients and controls displayed similar levels of caspase-1 activation and IL-1β production when stimulated with inflammasome activators. This IL-1β production was dependent on NF-κB activity and could be enhanced by priming with LPS. Finally, chemical inhibition of CFTR activity in control PBMCs and THP-1 cells did not significantly alter IL-1β or IL-8 production in response to P. aeruginosa.


Hematopoeitic cells appear to be the predominant source of inflammasome-induced pro-inflammatory IL-1β in CF. PBMCs derived from CF subjects display preserved inflammasome activation and IL-1β secretion in response to the major CF pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa. However, our data do not support the hypothesis that increased IL-1β production in CF subjects is due to an intrinsic increase in NF-κB activity through loss of CFTR function.

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