Inflammasome-activated IL-1β plays a major role in lung neutrophilic inflammation induced by inhaled silica. However, the exact mechanisms that contribute to the initial production of precursor IL-1β (pro-IL-1β) are still unclear. Here, we assessed the implication of alarmins (IL-1α, IL-33 and HMGB1) in the lung response to silica particles and found that IL-1α is a master cytokine that regulates IL-1β expression.
Pro- and mature IL-1β as well as alarmins were assessed by ELISA, Western Blot or qRT-PCR in macrophage cultures and in mouse lung following nano- and micrometric silica exposure. Implication of these immune mediators in the establishment of lung inflammatory responses to silica was investigated in knock-out mice or after antibody blockade by evaluating pulmonary neutrophil counts, CXCR2 expression and degree of histological injury.
We found that the early release of IL-1α and IL-33, but not HMGB1 in alveolar space preceded the lung expression of pro-IL-1β and neutrophilic inflammation in silica-treated mice. In vitro, the production of pro-IL-1β by alveolar macrophages was significantly induced by recombinant IL-1α but not by IL-33. Neutralization or deletion of IL-1α reduced IL-1β production and neutrophil accumulation after silica in mice. Finally, IL-1α released by J774 macrophages after in vitro exposure to a range of micro- and nanoparticles of silica was correlated with the degree of lung inflammation induced in vivo by these particles.
We demonstrated that in response to silica exposure, IL-1α is rapidly released from pre-existing stocks in alveolar macrophages and promotes subsequent lung inflammation through the stimulation of IL-1β production. Moreover, we demonstrated that in vitro IL-1α release from macrophages can be used to predict the acute inflammogenic activity of silica micro- and nanoparticles.
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