Induction, production, and release of proinflammatory cytokines are essential steps to establish an effective host defense. Cytokines of the interleukin-1 (IL-1) family induce inflammation and regulate T lymphocyte responses while also displaying homeostatic and metabolic activities. With the exception of the IL-1 receptor antagonist, all IL-1 family cytokines lack a signal peptide and require proteolytic processing into an active molecule. One such unique protease is caspase-1, which is activated by protein platforms called the inflammasomes. However, increasing evidence suggests that inflammasomes and caspase-1 are not the only mechanism for processing IL-1 cytokines. IL-1 cytokines are often released as precursors and require extracellular processing for activity. Here we review the inflammasome-independent enzymatic processes that are able to activate IL-1 cytokines, paying special attention to neutrophil-derived serine proteases, which subsequently induce inflammation and modulate host defense. The inflammasome-independent processing of IL-1 cytokines has important consequences for understanding inflammatory diseases, and it impacts the design of IL-1-based modulatory therapies.
Keywords: IL-1β; caspase-1; host defense; inflammasome-independent; serine proteases.