A large number of IL-1 protein sequences have become available recently from a range of vertebrate species and especially from bony fish. However, 3D structures are still only known for mammalian IL-1. In this review, we use a multiple sequence alignment of all published non-mammalian vertebrate IL-1β proteins to locate the structurally important residues critical for maintaining the βtrefoil fold and we investigate the degree to which functionally important residues involved in receptor binding are conserved across vertebrate species. We find that although there is a high level of variability of positions involved in receptor binding, the mode of binding and overall shape of the ligand-receptor complex is probably maintained. This implies that each species has evolved its own unique interleukin-1 signalling system through ligand-receptor co-evolution. Nonetheless, the IL-1β processing mechanism in non-mammalian vertebrates remains unclear because, with the exception of three bony fish, all non-mammalian IL-1β sequences discovered so far lack an ICE (Interleukin Converting Enzyme) cut site. The IL-1 system has become an important drug target because of its significance in inflammatory diseases. Research on peptides derived from IL-1β has identified peptides that possess agonist activity in humans and in trout, and peptides with antagonist activity. The agonist peptides map to two distinct loop regions of IL-1β that are known to interact with the flexible domain III of the corresponding receptor. Further analysis of the IL-1 system may prove useful in engineering IL-1 with improved features and in suggesting new avenues for therapeutic intervention.
Keywords: interleukin-1, trefoil fold, ice cut site, interleukin-1 receptor, interleukin-1 receptor accessory protein, comparative immunology
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