The mechanism of activation of IRAK1 and IRAK4 by interleukin-1 and TollLike receptor agonists

Stefan Vollmer, Sam Strickson, Tinghu Zhang, Nathanael Gray, Katherine Lee, Vikram Rao, Philip Cohen (Lead / Corresponding author)

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We have developed the first assays that measure the protein kinase activities of Interleukin-1 Receptor Associated Kinase 1 (IRAK1) and IRAK4 reliably in human cell extracts, by employing Pellino1 as a substrate in conjunction with specific pharmacological inhibitors of IRAK1 and IRAK4. We exploited these assays to show that IRAK4 was constitutively active and that its intrinsic activity towards Pellino1 was not increased significantly by stimulation with interleukin-1 (IL-1) in IL-1Rexpressing HEK293 cells, Pam3Csk4-stimulated human THP1 monocytes or primary human macrophages. Our results, in conjunction with those of other investigators, suggest that the IL-1-stimulated trans-autophosphorylation of IRAK4 is initiated by the MyD88-induced dimerisation of IRAK4 and is not caused by an increase in the intrinsic catalytic activity of IRAK4. In contrast to IRAK4, we found that IRAK1 was inactive in unstimulated cells and converted to an active protein kinase in response to IL-1 or Pam3Csk4 in human cells. Surprisingly, the IL-1-stimulated activation of IRAK1 was not affected by pharmacological inhibition of IRAK4 and not reversed by dephosphorylation and/or deubiquitylation, suggesting that IRAK1 catalytic activity is not triggered by a covalent modification but by an allosteric mechanism induced by its interaction with IRAK4.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2027-2038
Number of pages12
JournalBiochemical Journal
Issue number12
Early online date16 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jun 2017


  • MyD88
  • IRAK
  • Toll-Like Receptor
  • innate immunity
  • Pellino


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