The unconventional secretion of IL-1β: Handling a dangerous weapon to optimize inflammatory responses

R Sitia, A Rubartelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Interleukin 1β (IL-1β) is a major mediator of inflammation, with a causative role in many diseases. Unlike most other cytokines, however, it lacks a secretory signal sequence, raising intriguing mechanistic, functional and evolutionary questions. Despite decades of strenuous efforts in many laboratories, how IL-1β is secreted is still a matter of intense debate. Here, we summarize the different mechanisms and pathways that have been proposed for IL-1β secretion. At least two of them, namely the endolysosomal vesicle-based and gasdermin D-dependent pathways (types III and I in the recent Rabouille's classification of unconventional protein secretion), can be triggered in monocytes, the main source of IL-1β in humans, according to the type and strength of the pro-inflammatory stimuli. As during the escalation of human conflicts, monocytes deploy secretory mechanisms of increasing efficiency and dangerousness, shifting from the specific and controlled type III pathway to the much faster release of type I. Thus, the different mechanisms are activated depending on the severity of the conditions, from the self-limiting type III pathways in response of low pathogen load or small trauma, to the uncontrolled responses that underlie autoinflammatory disorders and sepsis. © 2018 Elsevier Ltd
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12-21
Number of pages10
JournalSeminars in Cell and Developmental Biology
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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