Interleukin-1β (IL-1β) is a key proinflammatory cytokine involved in the progression of many autoinflammatory and autoimmune diseases, including autoimmune inner ear disease (AIED). IL-1β inhibition has been shown to result in clinical hearing improvement in a small cohort of corticosteroid-resistant patients with AIED. Canonical processing of pro–IL-1β by caspase-1 generates an active 17-kDa fragment, capable of instigating a proinflammatory microenvironment. However, in response to LPS, PBMCs from patients with AIED uniquely express a 28-kDa IL-1β fragment, as compared with PBMCs from control subjects. We synthesized and compared the biologic activity of the 28-kDa fragment to the 17-kDa IL-1β product and the pro–IL-1 31-kDa protein. The 28-kDa IL-1β fragment induces IL-6, TNF-α, and CCL3 in PBMCs. Uniquely, only caspase-7 treatment showed a dose- and time-dependent increase in 28-kDa band generation. Mass spectrometry confirmed the putative caspase-7 cleavage site of pro–IL-1β, which was used to generate the 28-kDa fragment used for PBMC stimulation studies. Collectively, these results provide insight into the function of a poorly understood, processed 28-kDa form of IL-1β in patients with AIED that is uniquely generated by caspase-7 and is capable of activating further downstream proinflammatory cytokines. Further investigation may provide novel pharmacologic targets for the treatment of this rare disease.


Shresh Pathak, Andrea Vambutas


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