Interleukin (IL)-1 family cytokines are important initiators of innate immunity and host defence; however, their uncontrolled activities can cause tissue-damaging inflammation. Consequently, IL-1 family cytokines have sophisticated regulatory mechanisms to control their activities including proteolytic processing for their activation and the deployment of soluble receptors and receptor antagonists to limit their activities. IL-33 is a promoter of type 2 immunity and allergic inflammation through its alarmin activity that can rapidly initiate local immune responses by stimulating innate immune cells following exposure to environmental insults, pathogens, or sterile injury. Recent publications have provided new insights into how the range and duration of IL-33 activity is regulated by direct sensing of host-derived and exogenous proteolytic activities as well as oxidative changes during tissue damage. Here, we discuss how this impacts our understanding of the roles of IL-33 in initiating immune responses and the evidence that these sensing mechanisms might regulate the activities of other IL-1 family cytokines and their biological functions. Finally, we discuss translational challenges these discoveries pose for the accurate detection of different forms of these cytokines.

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