Progressive waves of IL-1β release by primary human monocytes via sequential activation of vesicular and gasdermin D-mediated secretory pathways

Cell Death Dis. 2018 Oct 23;9(11):1088. doi: 10.1038/s41419-018-1121-9.


IL-1β is an essential cytokine, but its release needs to be strictly controlled to avoid severe inflammatory manifestations. Lacking a signal sequence, IL-1β does not follow the endoplasmic reticulum-Golgi route. Several pathways have been proposed to mediate its release. One involves the translocation of pro-IL-1β into intracellular vesicles of lysosomal origin that eventually fuse with the plasma membrane. Another exploits pores formed on the plasma membrane upon proteolytic cleavage of gasdermin D (GSDMD). Here we investigated how primary monocytes-the main source of IL-1β in humans-control IL-1β release in response to pro-inflammatory stimuli of increasing intensity and found that two different routes are induced depending on the strength of activation. Triggering of Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) by LPS induces slow IL-1β release through LAMP2A+ vesicles. In contrast, the simultaneous stimulation of TLR2, TLR4 and TLR7/8 drives high levels of ROS, GSDMD cleavage and faster IL-1β secretion. Drugs blocking ROS production prevent GSDMD cleavage supporting a role of oxidative stress in GSDMD-mediated secretion. Singly stimulated monocytes undergo apoptosis, whereas triple stimulation triggers pyroptosis, which might amplify inflammation. In both cases, however, IL-1β secretion precedes cell death. Inhibition of caspases 4/5 prevents GSDMD cleavage and pore-mediated secretion, but not vesicular release. The two pathways also display other distinct pharmacologic sensitivities that reflect the underlying mechanisms. Remarkably, single TLR4 stimulation is sufficient to activate massive, GSDMD-mediated IL-1β secretion in monocytes from patients affected by Cryopyrin Associated Periodic Syndrome (CAPS), an autoinflammatory disease linked to NLRP3 mutations. The exaggerated sensitivity to activation correlates with high basal ROS levels in CAPS monocytes. In conclusion, the vesicular pathway limits IL-1β release upon low pathogen load while stronger stimulation or concomitant cell stress induce instead uncontrolled secretion via GSDMD leading to detrimental inflammatory manifestations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Apoptosis
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cryopyrin-Associated Periodic Syndromes / blood
  • Cryopyrin-Associated Periodic Syndromes / metabolism*
  • Cryopyrin-Associated Periodic Syndromes / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-1beta / metabolism*
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism*
  • Lipopolysaccharides / pharmacology
  • Lysosomal-Associated Membrane Protein 2 / metabolism
  • Male
  • Monocytes / drug effects
  • Monocytes / metabolism*
  • NLR Family, Pyrin Domain-Containing 3 Protein / genetics
  • Phosphate-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Pyroptosis
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Secretory Pathway*
  • Toll-Like Receptors / metabolism
  • Transport Vesicles / metabolism*
  • Young Adult
  • Zymosan / pharmacology


  • GSDMD protein, human
  • Interleukin-1beta
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • LAMP2 protein, human
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Lysosomal-Associated Membrane Protein 2
  • NLR Family, Pyrin Domain-Containing 3 Protein
  • NLRP3 protein, human
  • Phosphate-Binding Proteins
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Toll-Like Receptors
  • Zymosan