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
Mapping of putative caspase-7 cleavage site by mass spectrometry.