Brain, behavior, and immunity

Interleukin-33 treatment reduces secondary injury and improves functional recovery after contusion spinal cord injury.

PMID 25153903


Interleukin-33 (IL-33) is a member of the interleukin-1 cytokine family and highly expressed in the naïve mouse brain and spinal cord. Despite the fact that IL-33 is known to be inducible by various inflammatory stimuli, its cellular localization in the central nervous system and role in pathological conditions is controversial. Administration of recombinant IL-33 has been shown to attenuate experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis progression in one study, yet contradictory reports also exist. Here we investigated for the first time the pattern of IL-33 expression in the contused mouse spinal cord and demonstrated that after spinal cord injury (SCI) IL-33 was up-regulated and exhibited a nuclear localization predominantly in astrocytes. Importantly, we found that treatment with recombinant IL-33 alleviated secondary damage by significantly decreasing tissue loss, demyelination and astrogliosis in the contused mouse spinal cord, resulting in dramatically improved functional recovery. We identified both central and peripheral mechanisms of IL-33 action. In spinal cord, IL-33 treatment reduced the expression of pro-inflammatory tumor necrosis factor-alpha and promoted the activation of anti-inflammatory arginase-1 positive M2 microglia/macrophages, which chronically persisted in the injured spinal cord for up to at least 42 days after the treatment. In addition, IL-33 treatment showed a tendency towards reduced T-cell infiltration into the spinal cord. In the periphery, IL-33 treatment induced a shift towards the Th2 type cytokine profile and reduced the percentage and absolute number of cytotoxic, tumor necrosis factor-alpha expressing CD4+ cells in the spleen. Additionally, IL-33 treatment increased expression of T-regulatory cell marker FoxP3 and reduced expression of M1 marker iNOS in the spleen. Taken together, these results provide the first evidence that IL-33 administration is beneficial after CNS trauma. Treatment with IL33 may offer a novel therapeutic strategy for patients with acute contusion SCI.