Introduction Monosodium urate monohydrate (MSU) crystals synergize with various toll-like receptor (TLR) ligands to induce cytokine production via activation of the NOD-like receptor (NLR) family, pyrin domain-containing 3 (NLPR3) inflammasome. This has been demonstrated in vitro using human cell lines or monocytes of healthy volunteers. In the present study, we have investigated the effect of MSU crystals and of their combination with TLR ligands in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) of patients with gout.Methods PBMCs from 18 patients with primary gout and 12 healthy donors were exposed to MSU crystals in the presence or absence of saturated fatty acid C18:0 (free fatty acid, TLR2 ligand), palmitoyl-3-cystein (Pam3Cys, TLR1/2 ligand) and fibroblast stimulating factor-1 (FSL-1, TLR 2/6 ligand). Production of IL-1β, IL-6, IL-8, IL-17 and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) was determined by ELISA. mRNA transcripts of IL-1β were measured by real-time PCR.Results MSU crystals alone failed to induce IL-1β, IL-6 or TNFα in both patients and control groups, but a stronger synergy between MSU/Pam3Cys and MSU/C18:0 for the induction of IL-1β was found in patients with gout compared to healthy controls. IL-6, but not IL-8, followed the kinetics of IL-1β. No production of the neutrophil-recruiting IL-17 was detectable after stimulation of the patients' PBMCs with MSU in both the presence or absence of TLR ligands. No change of gene transcripts of IL-1β after stimulation with MSU and Pam3Cys or with MSU and C18:0 was found. A positive correlation was found between synergy in IL-1β production from PBMCs of patients between C18:0 and MSU crystals, as well as the annual number of attacks of acute gouty arthritis (rs: +0.649, P: 0.022).Conclusions The synergy between MSU crystals and TLR-2 ligands is more prominent in patients with gout than in controls. This is likely mediated by the enhanced maturation of pro-IL-1β into IL-1β.