Interleukin 1α: a comprehensive review on the role of IL-1α in the pathogenesis and treatment of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases

Autoimmun Rev. 2021 Mar;20(3):102763. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2021.102763. Epub 2021 Jan 20.


The interleukin (IL)-1 family member IL-1α is a ubiquitous and pivotal pro-inflammatory cytokine. The IL-1α precursor is constitutively present in nearly all cell types in health, but is released upon necrotic cell death as a bioactive mediator. IL-1α is also expressed by infiltrating myeloid cells within injured tissues. The cytokine binds the IL-1 receptor 1 (IL-1R1), as does IL-1β, and induces the same pro-inflammatory effects. Being a bioactive precursor released upon tissue damage and necrotic cell death, IL-1α is central to the pathogenesis of numerous conditions characterized by organ or tissue inflammation. These include conditions affecting the lung and respiratory tract, dermatoses and inflammatory skin disorders, systemic sclerosis, myocarditis, pericarditis, myocardial infarction, coronary artery disease, inflammatory thrombosis, as well as complex multifactorial conditions such as COVID-19, vasculitis and Kawasaki disease, Behcet's syndrome, Sjogren Syndrome, and cancer. This review illustrates the clinical relevance of IL-1α to the pathogenesis of inflammatory diseases, as well as the rationale for the targeted inhibition of this cytokine for treatment of these conditions. Three biologics are available to reduce the activities of IL-1α; the monoclonal antibody bermekimab, the IL-1 soluble receptor rilonacept, and the IL-1 receptor antagonist anakinra. These advances in mechanistic understanding and therapeutic management make it incumbent on physicians to be aware of IL-1α and of the opportunity for therapeutic inhibition of this cytokine in a broad spectrum of diseases.

Keywords: Autoimmunity; Cancer; Cytokines; IL-1; IL-1α; IL-1β; Inflammation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Humans
  • Interleukin 1 Receptor Antagonist Protein
  • Interleukin-1alpha*
  • Receptors, Interleukin-1
  • SARS-CoV-2


  • Interleukin 1 Receptor Antagonist Protein
  • Interleukin-1alpha
  • Receptors, Interleukin-1