Open Access Open Badges Research article

Production of interleukin-1 receptor antagonist by human articular chondrocytes

Gaby Palmer1, Pierre-Andre Guerne1, Francoise Mezin1, Michel Maret1, Jerome Guicheux13, Mary B Goldring2 and Cem Gabay1*

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Rheumatology, University Hospital, Geneva, Switzerland

2 New England Baptist Bone and Joint Institute and Rheumatology Division, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Institutes of Medicine, Boston, Massachussetts, USA

3 INSERM EM 9903, School of Dental Surgery, Nantes, France

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Arthritis Res 2002, 4:226-231  doi:10.1186/ar411

Published: 8 April 2002


Interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra) is a natural IL-1 inhibitor possessing anti-inflammatory properties. IL-1Ra is produced as different isoforms, one secreted (sIL-1Ra) and three intracellular (icIL-1Ra1, icIL-1Ra2 and icIL-1Ra3), derived from the same gene. We examined the production of IL-1Ra species by cultured human articular chondrocytes in response to various cytokines. The levels of IL-1Ra were undetectable in culture supernatants of untreated cells, but were significantly increased by IL-1β. Cell lysates contained very low levels of IL-1Ra, even in response to IL-1β, suggesting that chondrocytes produce predominantly sIL-1Ra. IL-6, which had no effect on its own, enhanced the effect of IL-1β, while dexamethasone prevented the response. We observed by RT-PCR that IL-1β and IL-6 induced primarily the production of sIL-1Ra mRNA. Furthermore, IL-1β alone or combined with IL-6 increased the levels of nascent unspliced sIL-1Ra mRNA, suggesting that sIL-1Ra expression is regulated at the transcriptional level. Reporter gene assays in immortalized chondrocytes, C-20/A4, consistently showed increased sIL-1Ra promoter activity in response to IL-1β and IL-6. In conclusion, human articular chondrocytes produce sIL-1Ra in response to IL-1β and IL-6. The production of sIL-1Ra by chondrocytes may have a protective effect against articular inflammatory and catabolic responses.

cytokines; glucocorticoids; human articular chondrocytes; IL-1 receptor antagonist