Interleukin-1, inflammasomes and the skin

Eur J Cell Biol. 2010 Sep;89(9):638-44. doi: 10.1016/j.ejcb.2010.04.008.


Interleukin (IL)-1 is a highly active and pleiotropic pro-inflammatory cytokine. Recent data impressively demonstrate that activating mutations in a human gene involved in proIL-1beta maturation or loss-of-function mutations in the gene encoding IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra) cause excessive activity of this cytokine. This can result in life-threatening systemic and local inflammation, particularly in the skin. Interestingly, experiments in mice revealed that epidermal keratinocytes can secrete large amounts of IL-1alpha, which induces an inflammatory response in the skin. Secretion of IL-1 requires caspase-1 activity, and activation of the protease takes place in innate immune complexes, called inflammasomes. As keratinocytes express and activate caspase-1 in an inflammasome-dependent manner, these epithelial cells might be critically involved in the innate immunity of the skin. In this review we summarize the current knowledge on IL-1 and inflammasomes in the skin, particularly their involvement in skin homeostasis and disease. In addition, we discuss the hypothesis that keratinocytes are not only static bricks of the epidermal wall, but immunologically active cells critically involved in different (auto)-inflammatory (skin) diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Dermatitis / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-1 / immunology*
  • Keratinocytes / immunology
  • Skin / immunology*


  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-1