The history of discovery of Interleukin-1: a fundamental cytokine of the innate immune response

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Veronica Vivona
Luca Lepore
Giorgia Bilato
Lorenzo Mortara
Andrea De Lerma Barbaro


Interleukin-1, IL1, leukocytic pyrogen, endogenous pyrogen, IL-1 family molecules, alarmins


The discovery of IL-1 marked the beginning of research on soluble mediators of the immune response but also the initiation of studies on inflammatory responses to tissue damage. Initially referred to as endogenous leukocyte pyrogen (from the Greek word ‘pyr’ for fire), due to its role as a fever inducer, the study of this molecule led to the identification of numerous other related soluble factors, which together take the IL-1 family name. Additionally, the study of IL-1 provided the starting point for the characterization of numerous structurally and functionally related receptors that play crucial roles in the regulation of immune responses. In fact, the IL-1 family plays a key role in inflammation, in the response to microbes, and acts as an inducer of both autoimmune and autoinflammatory pathologies, as well as being associated with cancer. In this last context, both pro-tumor and anti-tumor roles of IL1 family members have been highlighted. Therefore, IL-1 family molecules have many aspects still to be studied today and many researchers are actively involved in this line of investigation for the potential treatment of various diseases.

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