Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

IL-33/ST2 axis promotes mast cell survival via BCLXL.

PMID 24982172


Mast cells (MC) are potent innate immune cells that accumulate in chronically inflamed tissues. MC express the IL-33 receptor IL-1 receptor-related protein ST2 at high level, and this IL-1 family cytokine both activates MC directly and primes them to respond to other proinflammatory signals. Whether IL-33 and ST2 play a role in MC survival remains to be defined. In skin-derived human MC, we found that IL-33 attenuated MC apoptosis without altering proliferation, an effect mediated principally through the antiapoptotic molecule B-cell lymphoma-X large (BCLXL). Murine MC demonstrated a similar mechanism, dependent entirely on ST2. In line with these observations, St2(-/-) mice exhibited reduced numbers of tissue MC in inflamed arthritic joints, in helminth-infected intestine, and in normal peritoneum. To confirm an MC-intrinsic role for ST2 in vivo, we performed peritoneal transfer of WT and St2(-/-) MC. In St2(-/-) hosts treated with IL-33 and in WT hosts subjected to thioglycollate peritonitis, WT MC displayed a clear survival advantage over coengrafted St2(-/-) MC. IL-33 blockade specifically attenuated this survival advantage, confirming IL-33 as the relevant ST2 ligand mediating MC survival in vivo. Together, these data reveal a cell-intrinsic role for the IL-33/ST2 axis in the regulation of apoptosis in MC, identifying thereby a previously unappreciated pathway supporting expansion of the MC population with inflammation.