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Arthritis Res Ther. 2018 Feb 8;20(1):27. doi: 10.1186/s13075-018-1525-z.

IL-1 family cytokines and soluble receptors in systemic lupus erythematosus.

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Institute of Protein Biochemistry, National Research Council, Naples, Italy.
Clinical Immunology Unit, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy.
Clinical Immunology Unit, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy.



Dysregulated production of cytokines has a critical role in systemic lupus. The aim of this work is to identify, by a comprehensive analysis of IL-1 family cytokines and receptors in serum, correlation between cytokines/receptors' levels and the clinical and serological features of the disease.


A full clinical evaluation was performed in 74 patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). C3, C4, anti-dsDNA and anti-C1q antibodies were measured. Cytokines of the IL-1 family (IL-1α, IL-1β, IL-33, IL-18), soluble receptors (sIL-1R1, sIL-1R2, sIL-1R3, ST2/sIL-1R4) and antagonists (IL-1Ra, IL-18 binding protein (IL-18BP)) were measured in serum by multiarray ELISA. Free IL-18 was calculated as the amount of IL-18 not inhibited by IL-18BP. Data were analysed by non-parametric tests and by multivariate analysis, using partial least squares (PLS) models.


Total IL-18, IL-18BP, sIL-1R4 and IL-1Ra levels were higher in SLE vs.


Total and free IL-18 and sIL-1R4 were higher in patients with active vs. inactive disease and correlated with ECLAM, anti-C1q and anti-dsDNA antibodies. sIL-1R2 was higher in patients with inactive disease, was negatively correlated with ECLAM and anti-C1q antibodies and was positively correlated with C3 levels. PLS identified sIL-1R4, sIL-1R2 and anti-dsDNA as variables distinguishing patients with active from those with inactive disease; sIL-1R4, IL-18BP and anti-dsDNA identified patients with active nephritis; sIL-1R4, C3, IL-18 and free IL-18 identified patients with haematological involvement.


The data support the use of IL-18, sIL-1R2 and sIL-1R4 as biomarkers of disease activity and organ involvement, and suggest that failure in the inhibition of IL-1 activation may be a critical event in the active stages of SLE.


Biomarkers; Il-1 family; Soluble IL-1 family receptors; Systemic lupus erythematosus

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