IL-33, an IL-1 family cytokine, is constitutively expressed in mucosal tissues and other organs in healthy humans and animals, and expression levels increase in inflammatory conditions. Although IL-33–mediated promotion of type 2 immune responses has been well established, a gap in our knowledge regarding the functional diversity of this pleiotropic cytokine remains. To address this gap, we developed a new IL-33 transgenic mouse model in which overexpression of full-length IL-33 is induced in lung epithelial cells under conditional control. In adult mice, an ∼3-fold increase in the steady-state IL-33 levels produced no pathologic effects in the lungs. When exposed to airborne allergens, adult transgenic mice released more IL-33 extracellularly and exhibited robust type 2 immune responses. In neonatal transgenic mice, up to postnatal day 14, a similar increase in steady-state IL-33 levels resulted in increased mortality, enlarged alveolar spaces resembling bronchopulmonary dysplasia, and altered expression of genes associated with tissue morphogenesis. Processed 25-kDa IL-33 protein was detected in bronchoalveolar lavage fluids without any exogenous stimuli, and pathologic changes were abolished in mice deficient in the IL-33 receptor ST2. These findings suggest that adult lungs are relatively resistant to IL-33 overexpression unless they encounter environmental insults, whereas developing lungs are highly susceptible, with IL-33 overexpression resulting in detrimental and pathologic outcomes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy