The biological activities of interleukin1

IL-1 mediates a wide variety of biological activities:

• It is a pro-inflammatory cytokine, promoting the synthesis of various substances such as eicosanoids, as well as proteases and other enzymes involved in generating inflammatory mediators. This appears to be its major biological function.

• It plays a role in activating B-lymphocytes, along with additional cytokines, and may also play a role in activating T-lymphocytes.

• Along with IL-6, it induces synthesis of acute-phase proteins in hepatocytes.

• It acts as a co-stimulator of haematopoietic cell growth/differentiation.

The relative prominence of these various biological activities depends largely upon the quantities of IL-1 produced in any given situation. At low concentrations, its effects are largely paracrine, e.g. induction of local inflammation. At elevated concentrations, it acts more in an endocrine manner, inducing systematic effects, such as the hepatic synthesis of acute-phase proteins, but also induction of fever (hence the name, endogenous pyrogen) and cachexia (general body wasting, such as that associated with some cancers). Many of these biological activities are also promoted by TNF, which is another example of cytokine redundancy.

In addition to IL-1a and -1p, a third IL-1-like protein has been identified, termed IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra). As its name suggests, this molecule appears to be capable of binding to the IL-1 receptors without triggering an intracellular response.

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