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J Immunol. 2010 Jul 15;185(2):1222-9. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1000520. Epub 2010 Jun 11.

IL-33 reduces macrophage foam cell formation.

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  • 1Cardiff School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, United Kingdom.


The development of atherosclerosis, a chronic inflammatory disease characterized by the formation of arterial fibrotic plaques, has been shown to be reduced by IL-33 in vivo. However, whether IL-33 can directly affect macrophage foam cell formation, a key feature of atherosclerotic plaques, has not been determined. In this study, we investigated whether IL-33 reduces macrophage foam cell accumulation in vivo and if IL-33 reduces their formation in vitro using THP-1 and primary human monocyte-derived macrophages. In Apolipoprotein E(-/-) mice fed on a high fat diet, IL-33 treatment significantly reduced the accumulation of macrophage-derived foam cells in atherosclerotic plaques. IL-33 also reduced macrophage foam cell formation in vitro by decreasing acetylated and oxidized low-density lipoprotein uptake, reducing intracellular total and esterified cholesterol content and enhancing cholesterol efflux. These changes were associated with IL-33-mediated reduction in the expression of genes involved in modified low-density lipoprotein uptake, such as CD36, and simultaneous increase in genes involved in cholesterol efflux, including Apolipoprotein E, thereby providing a mechanism for such an action for this cytokine. IL-33 also decreased the expression of key genes implicated in cholesterol esterification and triglyceride storage, including Acyl-CoA:cholesterol acyltransferase 1 and Adipocyte differentiation-related protein. Furthermore, using bone marrow-derived macrophages from ST2(-/-) mice, we demonstrate that the IL-33 receptor, ST2, is integral to the action of IL-33 on macrophage foam cell formation. In conclusion, IL-33 has a protective role in atherosclerosis by reducing macrophage foam cell formation suggesting that IL-33 maybe a potential therapeutic agent against atherosclerosis.

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