Inflammation occurs in response to both pathogenic insult and tissue damage under sterile conditions, with the latter contributing to the pathogenesis of many diseases. Although several endogenous substances, including uric acid, have been suggested to alert the body to danger and to stimulate inflammation, little is known about their contribution to such responses in vivo. In this issue of the JCI, Kono et al. use newly generated mice with reduced levels of uric acid to investigate its role as an endogenous signal of tissue damage in inflammatory responses to hepatic injury. They find that uric acid is released from dying tissues and induces inflammation to cell death but is not involved in the response to microbial molecules or sterile irritant particles. I believe this to be the first report of an endogenous danger signal acting as a physiological regulator of inflammation.
Proposed mechanism by which uric acid triggers inflammation.