The cytokine interleukin-1β (IL-1β) is a key mediator of the inflammatory response. Essential for the host-response and resistance to pathogens, it also exacerbates damage during chronic disease and acute tissue injury. It is not surprising therefore that there is a huge level of interest in how this protein is produced and exported from cells. However, the mechanism of IL-1β release has proven to be elusive. It does not follow the conventional ER-Golgi route of secretion. A literature full of disparate observations arising from numerous experimental systems, has contributed to a complicated mix of diverse proposals. Here we summarise these observations and propose that secretion of IL-1β occurs on a continuum, dependent upon stimulus strength and the extracellular IL-1β requirement.
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