• IL-1;
  • IL-1 receptor antagonist;
  • Gene polymorphism


The genes in the IL-1 complex code for three proteins, IL-1α, IL-1β and the IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra). The severity of a given infection is influenced by the balance between the levels of IL-1β, the major extracellular agonist, and that of IL-1Ra. In healthy individuals, IL-1Ra is readily detectable in plasma but IL-1β levels are usually undetectable. As there are polymorphisms in both of these genes, we have now analyzed whether there are allelic associations between these loci and whether these would have an influence on plasma IL-1Ra levels. In 200 healthy blood donors, the mean plasma IL-1Ra concentration was 681 pg/ml. The IL-1Ra allele 2 (IL1RN*2) had a clear influence on IL-1Ra levels: its carriers had higher levels than the non-carriers (745 ng/ml vs. 627 pg/ml, p < 0.05, t -test). As marker alleles for IL-1β we used two biallelic base-exchange polymorphisms (at positions − 511 and + 3953 relative to the transcriptional start site). The more rare allele of IL-1β − 511 (allele 2) was significantly associated with the presence of IL-1Ra allele 2, but in the case of the IL-1β + 3953, the more rare allele (allele 2) was less frequent in the carriers of the IL-1Ra allele 2. These IL-1β allelisms did not have a direct influence on plasma IL-1Ra levels, but the enhancing effect of IL-1Ra allele 2 on IL-1Ra plasma levels required the presence of the IL-1β − 511 allele 2 or absence of the IL-1β + 3953 allele 2. Taken together, these results indicate that the IL-1β gene participates in the regulation of IL-1Ra production in vivo and that the alleles of IL-1β and IL-1Ra which demonstrate this cooperative effect are often associated.