Necrosis can induce profound inflammation or be clinically silent. However, the mechanisms underlying such tissue specificity are unknown. Interleukin-1α (IL-1α) is a key danger signal released upon necrosis that exerts effects on both innate and adaptive immunity and is considered to be constitutively active. In contrast, we have shown that necrosis-induced IL-1α activity is tightly controlled in a cell type-specific manner. Most cell types examined expressed a cytosolic IL-1 receptor 2 (IL-1R2) whose binding to pro-IL-1α inhibited its cytokine activity. In cell types exhibiting a silent necrotic phenotype, IL-1R2 remained associated with pro-IL-1α. Cell types possessing inflammatory necrotic phenotypes either lacked IL-1R2 or had activated caspase-1 before necrosis, which degraded and dissociated IL-1R2 from pro-IL-1α. Full IL-1α activity required cleavage by calpain after necrosis, which increased its affinity for IL-1 receptor 1. Thus, we report a cell type-dependent process that fundamentally governs IL-1α activity postnecrosis and the mechanism allowing conditional release of this blockade.
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